Need a perfect paper? Place your first order and save 5% with this code:   SAVE5NOW

Intelligence Paper: Foreign Threat to U.S. National Elections


The integrity of U.S. national elections is the foundation of the nation’s democratic principles. This means the election system is vital to the country’s infrastructure. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has allocated the election system as an important component of the nation’s critical infrastructure. As a result, this department acknowledges and understands the need for a high level of vigilance and protection to ensure that the democratic process embraces and maintains its resiliency without interference from external forces. The DHS Office of Intelligence & Analysis has been designated to safeguard these crucial systems. It has also been given the role of evaluating or assessing the vulnerabilities present in the nation’s electoral infrastructure, and the intelligence arm is given the role of examining and eradicating threats to the homeland. The DHS Office of Intelligence & Analysis engages or collaborates with other Intelligence Community stakeholders such as the CIA, FBI, DIA, and NSA to identify and counteract evolving threats to the electro process. Challenges persist despite these efforts in the context of effectively disseminating vital information to state and local agencies, as demonstrated by the perception by law enforcement entities that state fusion centers, in most cases, offer more efficient and timely intelligence.

Complex and Wide-Ranging Threats

The threats facing U.S. national elections are diverse since they revolve around the prevailing advanced strategies put in place by foreign actors to compromise the democratic process. Cyber attacks are one of the prominent threat categories that impact election systems. Malicious, mostly state-sponsored actors use advanced technological capabilities to access voters’ databases, disrupt the integrity of electoral infrastructure, and manipulate election software (Desouza et al., 2020). In most cases, cyber attacks usually pose a considerable risk since they play a huge role in compromising the accuracy and confidentiality of voter information, which undermines the legitimacy of election results. Disinformation campaigns, on the other hand, are another prevailing threat where foreign entities use or exploit social media to manipulate public opinion and convey false narratives. These campaigns aim to influence voter sentiment, erode public trust, and sow discord through spreading misleading or manipulated information. Using social media platforms to spread misinformation creates confusion and enhances a climate of uncertainty in the electoral process.

Foreign influence operations add another challenge since financial support to various political figures, movements, and organizations shapes public discussions and influences policy decisions (Snider et al., 2021). In addition, this type of interference calls for the advancement of external actors’ interests by persuading the political arena in favor of their prevailing objectives. The compromising of political figures through various means, such as personal indiscretions and illicit financial transactions, can be utilized to interfere with and manipulate election outcomes. For example, the interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections was perpetuated by foreign interference, cyber intrusions, and disinformation (Desouza et al., 2020). Moreover, the subsequent attempts and trends project a consistent adaption of strategies by foreign actors, highlighting the need for a robust approach to mitigate these threats. As technological evolution and advancement continue to grow, the more the attack on the national elections will make continuous assessments and proactive eradication strategies to preserve the nation’s democratic foundation.

Identification of Threat Actors

Identifying the threat actors during national elections is challenging due to the blending of intelligence, technical, and geopolitical challenges. Concerning this, foreign actors usually engage in election interference with different motives, approaches, and levels of manipulation and interference, necessitating a close analysis of each case separately (CISA, nd). In most cases, state-sponsored actors feature prominently among individuals involved in election interference. Moreover, nations subjected to geopolitical interest may, at times, seek to manipulate the electoral process for the purpose of their strategic goals. For example, Russia has been implicated in election interference for various reasons, such as employing cyber capabilities, impacting operations to sow discord, and disinformation campaigns, which greatly undermine democratic institutions (Kennedy, 2022). Additionally, Iran and China have at times been implicated in utilizing similar strategies to advance their global stage interests (CISA, nd). Non-state actors involving hacktivist groups and organizations characterized by ideological agendas are another threat. These entities, at times, may or may not act independently as they use cyber capabilities to disrupt election systems, spread propaganda, and compromise sensitive information. On the other hand, attribution challenges make it difficult to identify threat actors. The surreptitious nature of cyber operations gives room for malicious actors to go ahead and obscure their origins and embrace techniques involving routing attacks by multiple serves and using proxy networks. False flag operations are another challenge when actors intentionally leave behind misleading clues to divert attention from their actual identity. Threat identification challenges are rooted in the relationship between state and non-state entities. This is because non-state actors may operate with support from nation-states, making it a challenge to categorize or identify them solely as independent actors. Global cyber activities’ interconnected nature adds more layers to these challenges, necessitating a deep analysis of technical indicators, behavioral patterns, and geopolitical interest to ascertain the origin of election interference.

Intelligence Community’s Strategy

The Intelligence Community embraces various strategies to counter or mitigate the diverse and evolving threat posed by the U.S. national elections. For instance, they mobilize their collective capabilities, resources, and expertise to promote the resilience of the electoral process (Office of the Director of National Intelligence, 2023). The Intelligence Community’s primary objective is to proactively identify, assess, and counter threats to election integrity. They achieve this through continuous monitoring and assessment of domestic and foreign activities that may interfere with the electoral process. This community engages in detailed analysis, drawing on various sources such as open-source, human, and signal intelligence. Through this approach and strategies, they can understand potential threats by identifying anomalies, indicators, patterns, and trends of foreign interference. The Intelligence Community partner’s coordination is vital to the strategy’s success. For example, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) is foundational in promoting collaboration among various agencies such as the National Security Agency (NSA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) (Office of the Director of National Intelligence, 2023). Furthermore, interagency working groups, regular intelligence-sharing meetings, and joint task forces play a massive role in ensuring a consistent flow of insights and information. Collaboration with DHS international partners and local election officials strengthens the collective ability to respond to, attribute to, and detect threats. This collaborative initiative acknowledges and understands that defending against election interference calls for an effective and integrated effort. Generally, the Intelligence Community refines the response protocols, supports initiatives to enhance cybersecurity, and fosters public awareness (Office of the Director of National Intelligence, 2023). As a result, they can safeguard the democratic process as well as maintain the integrity of the U.S. national elections in the face of the prevailing threats.

Roles and Responsibilities of Primary I.C. Partners

The Intelligence Community is characterized by various key agencies, which include OBNI, FBI, CIA, and NSA. These agencies each play a different role in mobilizing their unique capabilities towards the collective effort of fighting threats posed by the U.S. national elections. For instance, the ODNI is a principal advisor to the National Security Council and President on intelligence matters (Homeland Security, 2023). They also incorporate and coordinate the Intelligence Community efforts. The responsibilities of ODNI involve offering relevant, timely, and accurate intelligence that aims to support decision-making. In addition, they ensure a detailed and coordinated approach to assessing and countering election threats. In the context of their analytical capabilities, they rely on strategic planning, analytical capabilities, and strategic planning that help guide the broader intelligence community. On the other hand, the FBI is a federal investigative agency that safeguards national security by countering foreign influence in elections (Homeland Security, 2023). Their primary responsibility is enforcing and investigating federal election security laws, such as foreign interference and cyber threats. In addition, they collaborate with other agencies to analyze, identify, and neutralize threats. The FBI’s technical capabilities employ cyber-related expertise, investigative tools, and counterintelligence capabilities to identify and, at the same time, neutralize threats.

The CIA has designated the role of focusing on foreign intelligence analysis and collection to align itself with the objectives of U.S. national security (Govinfo, nd). Their central responsibility is assessing foreign threats to elections involving influencing operations and disinformation campaigns. Moreover, they offer strategic intelligence to policymakers. CIA technical capabilities revolve around employing advanced analytical tools, human intelligence (HUMINT), and signals intelligence (SIGINT) to understand and, at the same time, neutralize elections-related threats (Govinfo, nd). The NSA is given the role of information assurance and signals intelligence, which secures U.S. communications and counters cyber threats. Their main responsibility is to analyze and monitor foreign-related communication, offering cryptographic support to secure communication channels and identifying potential threats to election infrastructure(Govinfo, nd). NSA’s technical capabilities are characterized by encryption technologies, advanced signals intelligence, and cybersecurity expertise. These agencies work collaboratively with the Intelligence Community to offer a robust and integrated response that safeguards the U.S. national elections from foreign threats (Govinfo, nd). Additionally, their combined efforts mobilize diverse resources and skills that play an essential role in ensuring a solid defense against democratic process interference.

DHS Roles and Responsibilities

The DHS is fundamental in coordinating intelligence efforts related to election security, an initiative that enables them to protect the integrity of U.S. national elections. The DHS is also a central agency that oversees U.S. critical infrastructure involving proactive measures to address evolving threats, election systems, and information sharing (Homeland Security, 2023). In the context of its roles and responsibilities, it coordinates efforts to secure election infrastructure and collaborates with territorial, federal, tribal, state, and local partners to enhance the overall security posture. In relation to coordination and collaboration, they assess and manage risks to election infrastructure, offering guidance and support to local and state election officials. Furthermore, they provide cybersecurity expertise and foster information sharing with stakeholders. The DHS assesses election security threats and analyzes intelligence gathered from various sources (Homeland Security, 2023). Its primary responsibility is to assess potential threats, vulnerabilities, and risks to election systems through its Office of Intelligence & Analysis. This department offers technical assistance and resources that support election systems cybersecurity resilience. They achieve this through providing cybersecurity tools, training programs, and best practices to enhance the capabilities of local and state election officials in safeguarding their systems. The DHS mobilizes information sharing among local, state, and federal entities involved in election security (Homeland Security, 2023). Moreover, they ensure that relevant stakeholders are kept informed and take proactive measures to eliminate potential threats through disseminating timely alerts, threat indicators, and intelligence.

Despite these efforts, DHS is faced with numerous challenges. For example, local and state law enforcement entities sometimes perceive DHS reports as irrelevant and uninformative. This challenge can be overcome by improving communication strategies and demonstrating the practical utility of DHS intelligence in addressing the encountered threats (Homeland Security, 2023). Another prevailing challenge is that the state fusion centers, in most cases, are perceived to offer more timely information than DHS. Concerning this, addressing bureaucratic problems and streamlining communication channels can ensure speed and efficient information dissemination relevant to local and state agencies. In efforts to promptly support election security, the DHS faces resource constraints. This challenge can be addressed by advocating for increased resources and collaboration with other federal agencies to help address constraints and ensure the effectiveness of the DHS initiatives.

Recommendations for Improvement

In order to ensure there is a robust or solid U.S. defense against foreign threats to its national elections, it is important to consider collaboration frameworks, strategic improvements in intelligence-related methodology, and threat assessments. This can be achieved by first promoting a close integration of intelligence from various sources within the intelligence community, ensuring a holistic understanding of foreign threats. A unified intelligence framework plays a massive role in enhancing threat assessment effectiveness and ensures accurate and timely responses to emerging elections-related risks (USAID, 2022). Implementing a proactive cybersecurity measure can strengthen election systems against potential cyber-attacks. This is because by conducting regular vulnerability assessments and fostering best practices through adapting advanced cybersecurity technologies, the nation can be better positioned to safeguard its cyber infrastructure from malicious cyber activities.

Establishing a continuous threat monitoring system to detect and respond to the evolving strategies employed by foreign actors. Real-time monitoring promotes an adaptive and proactive response to changing circumstances and prompts the identification of emerging threats (USAID, 2022). Additionally, it strengthens collaboration with international stakeholders to share best practices, intelligence, and insights in eliminating election interference. In most cases, election threats are transnational, hence calling for a collaborative approach that addresses shared challenges and promotes a collective defense against foreign interference. Another recommendation is enhancing communication channels between DHS and state and local entities to ensure relevant and timely intelligence dissemination. Concerning this, streamlining the communication process and adopting efficient and secure channels can contribute to a more effective threat response at the state and local levels. Empowering state and local election officials with resources, programs, and enhanced training to boost their cybersecurity capabilities. The overall resilience of the nation’s election system can be improved through investing in the cybersecurity expertise of state and local officials (USAID, 2022). Launching a public awareness campaign to educate citizens concerning potential disinformation strategies and encourage media literacy. A well-informed public is fundamental since they act as an additional line of defense against disinformation campaigns, facilitating the overall resilience of the democratic process. Implementing these recommendations requires a sustained and coordinated effort from local, state, federal, and international partners. The U.S. can enhance its ability to hamper foreign threats and protect the sanctity of its national elections by adopting a proactive and collaborative approach.


The consistent and prevailing threats to the U.S. national election necessitate an effective and adaptive approach. Various challenges, such as foreign influence operations, cyber attacks, and disinformation campaigns, are among the identified challenges of the U.S. national elections. The recommendations that can ensure robust defenses against these threats include strengthening domestic and international collaboration, fortifying cybersecurity measures, and enhancing intelligence integration. The primary role of DHS includes coordinating intelligence efforts and streamlining communication channels with state and local entities. Additionally, effective intelligence collaboration is the foundation for safeguarding national elections. The U.S. can strengthen its defenses by implementing these measures, ensuring the integrity and resilience of its democratic process against evolving foreign threats.


CISA. China Cyber Threat Overview and Advisories. (Accessed: January 27, 2024)

Desouza, K. C., Ahmad, A., Naseer, H., & Sharma, M. (2020). Weaponizing information systems for political disruption: The actor, lever, effects, and response taxonomy (ALERT). Computers & Security88, 101606.

Govinfo. An Overview of the Intelligence Community. (Accessed: January 27, 2024)

Homeland Security. (2023 November, 06). Election Security.,their%20election%20systems%20and%20facilities

Kennedy, G. (2022). The Evolution of Russian Electoral Interference: 2016 and 2020 U.S. Presidential Elections (Doctoral dissertation).

Office of the Director of National Intelligence. 2023 December, 18. INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY ASSESSMENT OF FOREIGN THREATS TO THE 2022 U.S. ELECTIONS.

Snider, K. L., Shandler, R., Zandani, S., & Canetti, D. (2021). Cyberattacks, cyber threats, and attitudes toward cybersecurity policies. Journal of Cybersecurity7(1), tyab019.

USAID. 2022 July. Primer: Cybersecurity and Elections.


Don't have time to write this essay on your own?
Use our essay writing service and save your time. We guarantee high quality, on-time delivery and 100% confidentiality. All our papers are written from scratch according to your instructions and are plagiarism free.
Place an order

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below:

Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Copy to clipboard
Need a plagiarism free essay written by an educator?
Order it today

Popular Essay Topics