Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines: Iranian Government Actors Have Funded Pro-Gaza Protesters

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AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines released a statement on Wednesday that said Iranian government actors have funded pro-Gaza protests in the United States.

“In recent weeks, Iranian government actors have sought to opportunistically take advantage of ongoing protests regarding the war in Gaza, using a playbook we’ve seen other actors use over the years. We have observed actors tied to Iran’s government posing as activists online, seeking to encourage protests, and even providing financial support to protesters,” she said.

She added that Americans participating in the pro-Gaza protests are acting in “good faith” and might be unaware they are receiving funding from Iran, but urged them to be “vigilant.”

She said:

I want to be clear that I know Americans who participate in protests are, in good faith, expressing their views on the conflict in Gaza – this intelligence does not indicate otherwise. Moreover, the freedom to express diverse views, when done peacefully, is essential to our democracy, but it is also important to warn of foreign actors who seek to exploit our debate for their own purposes.
Furthermore, Americans who are being targeted by this Iranian campaign may not be aware that they are interacting with or receiving support from a foreign government. We urge all Americans to remain vigilant as they engage online with accounts and actors they do not personally know.

While the DNI issuing public statements is rare, the intelligence community has become more proactive in calling out what it sees as foreign influence in the U.S., particularly around elections since former President Donald Trump’s win in 2016, which Democrats blamed on Russian election interference.

Haines said her statement would be the “first of what will be regular updates” leading up to the 2024 election.

She said, “The Intelligence Community recognizes the importance of informing the public of foreign efforts to influence our democratic processes and, consequently, leading into the Presidential and congressional elections this year, we are launching today the first of what will be regular updates regarding such threats.”

She said the updates could be expected to cover “a range of foreign malign activities and election security threats.”

Earlier this week, Vice President Kamala Harris voiced support for the pro-Gaza protests as “showing exactly what the human emotion should be, as a response to Gaza.”

Harris said, “There are things some of the protesters are saying that I absolutely reject, so I don’t mean to wholesale endorse their points. But we have to navigate it. I understand the emotion behind it.”

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