WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ranking Member of the Senate Rules Committee with jurisdiction over federal elections, and Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, introduced new legislation to establish a Malign Foreign Influence Response Center to combat election interference operations conducted by foreign adversaries against the United States. The Combatting Foreign Influence Act would require the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) to establish a Malign Foreign Influence Response Center where officials from across the intelligence community could collaborate and ensure that agencies and departments are working together to assess influence operations with a whole-of-government approach. Similar steps have been taken to address terrorism through the establishment of the Counterterrorism Center at the ODNI.
“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. “We currently have numerous agencies and departments independently working to combat foreign influence, and it’s past time that our intelligence community comes together to fight these threats. The creation of this Response Center at the ODNI will help our intelligence community coordinate to better secure our democracy.”
“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. Russia and other foreign adversaries will inevitably try to interfere in the 2020 election by spreading disinformation and targeting our election infrastructure. Our bill would establish a center to coordinate intelligence and analysis sharing across government agencies involved in countering malign foreign influence operations, including the FBI and broader Intelligence Community, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of State, and Department of Defense. This coordinating body would provide a common operating picture for our government to respond to malign foreign influence operations and start getting ahead of the curve going forward. This legislation builds on an important amendment that Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) authored establishing a foreign threat center which passed the House by a wide margin as part of this year’s Intelligence Authorization Act," Reed said.
The Combatting Foreign Influence Act is also cosponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL).
Specifically, the Combatting Foreign Influence Act would:
- 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.
- Coordinate efforts at combatting foreign influence operations conducted by Russia, Iran, North Korea, and China.
- Identify and close gaps across the departments and agencies with respect to expertise, readiness, and planning to address foreign influence operations and campaigns.
- Make information available to the public on disinformation campaigns.
- Improve information sharing with allied intelligence partners.
- Direct the Center to submit an annual report to Congress on the activities of the Center and their implications on privacy and civil liberties.
- 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.
- Establish an Oversight Board composed of representatives from relevant departments and agencies to ensure the Center is achieving its mission.
- Terminate the Center eight years after its enactment unless otherwise re-authorized by Congress.