US Appoints New Intelligence Official to Counter Foreign Election Threats

By Tammy Hung
Tammy Hung
Tammy Hung
January 18, 2022Updated: January 18, 2022

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has appointed Jeffrey Winchman, a former CIA official, as the new election threats executive responsible for overseeing foreign interference to U.S. elections, according to a spokesperson from ODNI.

ODNI spokesperson Nicole de Haay told The New York Times on Jan. 14 that ODNI Director of National Intelligence Avril D. Haines had selected Winchman to fill the role.

On top of having served in the CIA for more than 30 years, Winchman is currently director of analysis for the CIA’s counterintelligence mission center. He has also previously held roles in cyber analytics, counterterrorism, and positions focusing on the Middle East.

Once appointed, Winchman will be responsible for establishing what constitutes malign election influence.

The “Foreign Malign Influence Response Center” law specifically listed Russia, Iran, North Korea, and China as countries to be monitored. The center will be looking for any “hostile effort” by these countries to influence U.S. “political, military, economic” policies and activities, as well as public opinion.

While the ODNI had previously proposed to establish the “Foreign Malign Influence Center,” intelligence agencies and Congress remain divided over the center’s mission, budget, and size even two years after the initial proposal.

“While we work with Congress to get funding for the center, the intelligence community remains focused on addressing foreign malign influence,” de Haay said.

If established, the center will work towards “coordinating and integrating intelligence pertaining to malign influence, drawing together relevant and diverse expertise to better understand and monitor the challenge,” an ODNI spokesman told CBS News in an April 2021 statement.

David Salvo, deputy director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy and a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund, in a Jan. 11 statement likened delayed plans of the center as a “gift” to “Russia and China” and “others who clearly have their sights set, not only on the midterm elections, but on ongoing campaigns to destabilize American society.”

De Haay also told The Associated Press on Jan. 11 that the director’s office “is focused on creating a center to facilitate and integrate the Intelligence Community’s efforts to address foreign malign influence.”