The U.S. intelligence community has confirmed that the Cuban government undertook covert operations to influence the outcome of the 2022 midterm elections in Florida, Miami Herald reported.
On Friday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released the Intelligence Community Assessment of Foreign Threats to the 2022 U.S. Elections.
The report, emanating from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), outlines how Cuban officials established connections with American media personalities critical of anti-Havana politicians, and operated a network of social media accounts designed to spread negative information about certain U.S. candidates.
These accounts, described as “almost certainly covertly tied” to Cuba, were aimed at undermining the electoral success of candidates perceived as hostile to the Cuban government’s interests.
While the full extent of the operations and their impacts on the elections remains unclear – given much of the report’s pertinent information was redacted – the intelligence assessment highlights the targeting of both Republican and allegedly Democratic figures.
Public statements from the Cuban government seem to suggest that the authorities in Havana, Cuba view members of the Cuban-American community in Miami as wielding significant influence over U.S. policy toward Cuba.
Rep. Carlos Gimenez wrote on X following the release of the report, “U.S. Intel has confirmed that the murderous, Communist Castro regime tried to interfere in our elections in Florida. I was targeted along with my colleagues from South Florida. The regime in Cuba is a MAJOR THREAT to our national security.”
Excerpts from the heavily redacted report:
We assess that Cuba attempted to undermine the electoral prospects of specific US Congressional and gubernatorial politicians that it perceived as hostile. Havana probably intended these efforts to advance its foreign policy goals, which include removing sanctions, travel restrictions, and its State Sponsor of Terrorism designation, [redacted] and public statements by Cuban officials.
[redacted] We assess that Havana probably tailored its efforts based on its perception of the US politicians’ stances on US policies toward Cuba [retracted].
[redacted] The Cuban Government sought to influence perceptions of politicians belonging to both major US political parties, [redacted] suggesting that partisan affiliation is not the sole consideration for its targeting efforts.
[redacted] Havana focused on operations aimed at denigrating specific US candidates in Florida, although it probably attempted to shape impressions of other US politicians, [redacted] Public Cuban Government statements indicate that Havana views Cuban-Americans in Miami as having an outsized influence on US policy in Cuba.
In 2022, a network of social media accounts almost certainly covertly tied to the Cuban Government created and amplified derogatory content [redacted]
[redacted] Havana sought to identify and establish relationships with members of the US media who held critical views of members of Congress, [redacted].
The ODNI report was a collective product of the National Intelligence Council and various U.S. intelligence agencies, including the CIA, NSA, DHS, FBI, State Department, and Treasury Department.
It notes Cuba’s interference efforts as being less extensive than those ascribed to other adversaries such as Russia, China, and Iran but points out that they were nonetheless tailored to undermine specific American politicians.
ODNI also released a National Intelligence Council Memo:
The IC observed other countries engaging in some efforts to support or undermine specific candidates during the US elections in 2022 that aligned with these countries’ perceptions of a candidate’s willingness to advance policies in support of the countries’ interests. These countries pursued a variety of means to achieve their influence goals, but the IC assesses that these observed activities, such as Cuba’s, were smaller in scale and more narrowly targeted than those of China, Iran, and Russia. These other countries:
- Directed campaign contributions to candidates they believed, if elected, would promote their interests and oppose policies contrary to those interests.
- Sought to obscure their involvement by using US persons, organizations, and businesses with either direct links to or who were otherwise aligned with leaders of these countries-to fund candidates’ election campaigns.
In addition to this second set of countries, the IC also observed a third category of countries that engaged in or directed some activities that fell short of the IC’s threshold for being classified as election influence because, in this third category, we lacked indications that the activities were explicitly intended to influence US elections. These activities
- Wielding economic leverage in the United States or in global commodities markets, even with the understanding that such actions could indirectly hurt the US President’s political standing.
- Speaking out publicly — either directly or on social media in favor of US candidates or parties, or urging voters to oppose other specific candidates and parties.
Below are the key judgments on the report:
[redacted] Key Judgment 1: The IC assesses that China tacitly approved efforts to try to influence a handful of midterm races involving members of both US political parties. People’s Republic of China (PRC) intelligence officers, diplomats, and other influence actors probably viewed some election influence activities as consistent with Beijing’s standing guidance to counter US politicians viewed as anti-China and to support others viewed as pro-China. We have high confidence in this assessment. PRC leaders most likely see their growing efforts to magnify US societal divisions as a response to what they believe is an intensified US effort to promote democracy at China’s expense.
[redacted] Key Judgment 2: The IC assesses that Iran’s influence activities reflected its intent to exploit perceived social divisions and undermine confidence in US democratic institutions during this election cycle. We assess that Tehran relied primarily on its intelligence services and Iran-based online influencers to conduct its covert operations. We have moderate confidence in this assessment. Tehran’s efforts during the midterms probably in part reflected resource limitations because of competing priorities and the need to manage internal unrest.
[redacted] Key Judgment 3: The IC assesses that the Russian Government and its proxies sought to denigrate the Democratic Party before the midterm elections and undermine confidence in the election, most likely to undermine US support for Ukraine. We have high confidence in this assessment. Elements of the Kremlin and its intelligence services conducted extensive research and analysis of US audiences to inform their election-related efforts, including identifying target demographics and the narratives and platforms that they perceived would appeal to these audiences, reflecting some of the IC’s most explicit reporting to date on Russia’s US-focused influence operations.
[redacted] Key Judgment 4: The IC assesses that a range of additional foreign actors took some steps to try to undermine US politicians seeking reelection. Their preferences varied and some of these efforts probably were smaller in scale and more narrowly targeted than the activities conducted by China, Iran, and Russia.