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Rubio: We’re Going to See More Nation-states Come After Our Political Process

May 15, 2024 | Press Releases

U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Vice Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) delivered opening remarks at a hearing on foreign threats to the 2024 elections.

  • “I think in the years to come, we’re going to see more and more nation-states and maybe non-state actors begin to not just come after us and our elections and our political process, but go after those of other countries as well.” – Senator Rubio

Click here for video and read the transcript below:

RUBIO: Thank you all for being here on this important topic. It’s one I think we’re going to be dealing with for the next quarter century. But it’s hopefully one we get to learn from experience on. 

Threats to the election is a broad topic. It’s always bifurcated into two things. There’s election interference, which is trying to hack into the voter database; or messing with the early, unofficial reporting system of a state; things of that nature. That’s more easily understood. Then, there is this whole topic of influence. It’s not just in elections. It’s also in our debates. We saw elements of that during COVID. We see it during policy debates here on a range of topics. 

Propaganda has always been a weapon of war. I think today you can do it at scale, faster, more convincing, and in ways that spread very quickly and are difficult to contain. We’ve seen this globally. We’ve seen an increasing amount of damage that’s being done to the reputation of the United States in parts of Africa by a very active effort to make life very difficult for our diplomats [and military personnel] to serve in that region where the Russians have moved in and gained greater influence. All of that is happening at a global scale. 

The chairman’s already talked about some of the countries that have faced efforts to meddle in their elections and try to influence and steer the outcome, in some cases successfully…. I think we hear a lot about the tools that are available, the capabilities that someone has to put out an AI video to spread narratives that are difficult to knock down. What I hope to learn a little bit more about is when this happens, if this happens, who’s in charge of responding to it? Have we thought through the process of what we do when one of these scenarios occurs? Because I don’t think I have a clear understanding of who’s in charge and how we would respond, who would take the lead. 

I know that if a hurricane is headed towards the United States, the National Hurricane Center is going to put meteorologists on the air who are…going to put out forecasts. It’s going to issue warnings. Republicans, Democrats, no matter who you’re going to vote for, are going to take the appropriate steps. 

If something like that were headed towards our election, I don’t know who’s in charge of putting it out there. More importantly, I think no matter who puts it out there, the candidate or issue on the other side of it, their followers are going to question whether it’s the government interfering in the elections themselves.

I use this as an example because it’s a very recent one. When the whole laptop situation happened, the Hunter Biden laptop, a number of former intelligence officials — I get it, they’re former and no longer an employee of any of these agencies, but that title carries weight — signed a letter saying this has all the hallmarks of a Russian disinformation campaign. We know now that it was not a disinformation campaign. I won’t go into the particulars of what was on it. I’m just saying we now know that it was not a Russian disinformation campaign. But the result of it was that social media companies would not allow anyone to post the articles, and there was a media blackout. It could not be reported anywhere except for one place…. 

The result of it now is that we have some segment of the country who repeatedly says things like, “The intelligence community interfered.” Why that is relevant here is because no matter who this disinformation campaign is geared after, the other side is going to say the people issuing the warnings are people that are interfering in the elections on behalf of the candidate they favor. So we’re in a real quandary here…. 

If something were to happen, if tomorrow there was a very convincing video of a candidate, let’s say for the U.S. Senate or Congress, and a video comes out with 72 hours to go before election day of that candidate saying some racist comment or doing something horrifying, but it’s fake, who is in charge of letting people know, “This thing is fake,” so that we can [stop] people who are going to go to the ballot box believing something that’s not real is real…. What are we doing to protect the credibility of whoever is in charge of saying it, so that the other side does not come out and say, “Our own government is interfering in the election”?

I think we’re going to be struggling with this for a very long time. The Russians are the best at it. They’ve been doing it a long time. They know [how to do it,] and they’ve perfected it. But every election cycle, more and more characters are joining the parade here in terms of getting into this business. I think in the years to come, we’re going to see more and more nation-states and maybe non-state actors begin to not just come after us and our elections and our political process, but [go after those] of other countries as well. 

This issue is not going away anytime soon. I think it’s only going to accelerate. It’s going to get worse. We really need to begin to lay out some parameters about how we’re going to respond to these things in a coordinated way, so that we know ahead of time, as opposed to the ad hoc basis in which this has been handled in years past, in terms of of responding to the disinformation piece of it. It’s a tough one to handle, but it’s one that I think we have to get a handle on.