Sen. Klobuchar Proposes Aggressive Counter-Election Interference Operation

Presidential candidate and Minnesota Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar has teamed up with Rep. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) to try and combat foreign influence--Russia particularly comes to mind--in U.S. elections. 

Klobuchar, who has backed a bill to increase political ad transparency online in the wake of Russian 2016 election meddling, is ranking member of the Senate Rules Committee--it has jurisdiction over federal election issues--and Reed is the ranking member on Armed Services. 

Russian meddling included setting up bogus online social media accounts and posts--Twitter, Instagram, Facebook--and buying digital ads in an effort to sew dissension and help then-candidate Donald Trump win the election, the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller concluded. U.S. intelligence agencies have warned that Russia and others could try to  reprise those efforts for the upcoming 2020 election.

Related: AG Barr Says Social Media Stepping Up on Foreign Meddling 

Their bill, the Combating Foreign Influence Act, would create the Malign Foreign Influence Response Center in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) to coordinate a response to influence operations, taking the kind of whole-of-government the U.S. has taken with counter-terrorism. 

“We know that foreign governments and their agents have executed extensive and sophisticated influence campaigns that are designed to sow division, spread disinformation, and mislead the American people—we need a collaborative, comprehensive approach to protecting our democracy from information warfare,” Klobuchar said Wednesday (Sept. 18). 

“Russian information warfare and malign foreign influence operations are ongoing and pose a serious threat to both our national security and democracy. The U.S. must step up efforts to counter this increasingly sophisticated and evolving threat," added Reed.  

The bill, which would expire in eight years unless renewed, would: 

1. "Direct the ODNI to establish a Malign Foreign Influence Response Center to serve as the primary organization for analyzing and integrating all intelligence possessed or acquired on foreign influence operations and campaigns. 

2. "Coordinate efforts at combating foreign influence operations conducted by Russia, Iran, North Korea, and China. 

3. "Identify and close gaps across the departments and agencies with respect to expertise, readiness, and planning to address foreign influence operations and campaigns. 

4. "Make information available to the public on disinformation campaigns. 

5. "Improve information sharing with allied intelligence partners. 

6. "Direct the Center to submit an annual report to Congress on the activities of the Center and their implications on privacy and civil liberties."  

7. Direct the Inspector General of the Intelligence Community to conduct an Annual Independent review of the activities of the Center and its implications on privacy and civil liberties. [The provisions on privacy and civil liberties is likely key since Democrats have on occasion criticized what they saw in the counter terrorism sphere as the sacrifice of liberties in the name of national security]. 

8. Establish an Oversight Board composed of representatives from relevant departments and agencies to ensure the Center is achieving its mission. 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.