March 06, 2020

Van Hollen, Warren, Colleagues Reiterate Request for Update on VA Efforts to Protect Veterans from Foreign Disinformation Campaigns

U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) joined Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), along with seventeen of their Senate colleagues, in sending a second letter to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reiterating their request to determine what actions VA is taking to educate veterans about online disinformation campaigns and other malign influence operations by Russian, Chinese, and other foreign entities.

In November 2019, after the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) released the results of a two-year investigation that "documented persistent, pervasive, and coordinated online targeting of American servicemembers, veterans, and their families by foreign entities seeking to disrupt American democracy," the senators wrote to the VA seeking information about VA's efforts to combat online disinformation targeting veterans. In its brief, six-sentence response to the senators' inquiry, VA did not provide any detailed information on how it educates veterans on foreign malign influence operations, and gave no indication that it had implemented the VVA's recommendations to address the threat.

In their latest letter to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, the senators criticized the Department's "vague and wholly inadequate response" to their initial query, noting that veterans continue to be targeted online by malicious foreign actors and stressing the importance of combatting this threat in the lead-up to the next election.

"Given the urgency of this threat to veterans as the next federal election approaches and the Department's deficient response - which failed to provide a single concrete example of actions taken by VA to address this problem - we are following up on our inquiry to determine if the Department is using available resources effectively and appropriately to protect veterans from foreign malign influence operations that could undermine our democracy," the senators wrote in their letter.

The senators reiterated their request that VA provide answers to their questions about its efforts to protect veterans from foreign malign influence operations, and requested a response as soon as possible.

Other signers include Senators Mark Warner (D-Va.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).

The full text of the letter is available here.