Dear Republicans, Forget your reticence to even consider the possibility that President Trump colluded with Russian officials to win the presidency, BUT AT LEAST DEAL WITH THE REALITY THAT THE RUSSIANS DID IN FACT STRIKE DEEP INTO THE HEART OF OUR US DEMOCRACY WITH ITS ELECTIONS.
As leaders, like the former head of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, have recently been testifying before the US House Intel Committees (June 2017), “we the people” have been discovering that Russia’s efforts to hack the 2016 presidential election were much more widespread than originally thought. Based on numerous sources the Russian campaign invaded US election web sites anywhere from 21 to 39 states, and in at least one case hackers tried to delete and alter voter data.
Although President Obama’s administration had taken steps to assure all of us that the election’s integrity was not compromised, there remains the fact, that there was a very large-scale Russian effort to meddle with our elections. And this means that US future elections, in 2018 and 2020, are at risk of being tainted.
So while it’s unclear if Russia’s hacking efforts actually influenced the outcome of the election, the fact that it is able to access such important information is frightening, in itself.
I am counting on the FBI’s Special Counsel Robert Mueller who is leading the inquiry into Russia’s possible ties to the Trump campaign, to also delve into this possible breech.
With a White House in denial about Russia’s extensive meddling into our election’s processes, what are the republican led majorities in the US Congress doing to take on the task of protecting the entire US voting/ elections infrastructure from future intrusions by Russia and other foreign governments? Why is it that I don’t sense more outrage?
Here’s the rest of the story...
On June 22, 2017, Massimo Calabresi of Time Magazine penned the following report, “Election Hackers Altered Voter Rolls, Stole Private Data, Officials Say.”
“The hacking of state and local election databases in 2016 was more extensive than previously reported, including at least one successful attempt to alter voter information, and the theft of thousands of voter records that contain private information like partial Social Security numbers, current and former officials tell TIME.”
“In one case, investigators found there had been a manipulation of voter data in a county database but the alterations were discovered and rectified, two sources familiar with the matter tell TIME. Investigators have not identified whether the hackers in that case were Russian agents.”
“If any campaign, Trump or otherwise, used inappropriate data the questions are, How did they get it? From whom? And with what level of knowledge?” the former top Democratic staffer on the House Intelligence Committee, Michael Bahar, tells TIME. “That is a crux of the investigation.”
“Both intelligence committees are looking at whether and how the intrusions could have furthered Russia’s larger strategic goals of undermining U.S. democracy, hurting Hillary Clinton and helping Donald Trump. During the run up to the vote, Obama Administration cyber-security officials took steps to prepare for widespread voter registration manipulation, fearing Russia might seek to cause chaos at polling places to undermine the credibility of the election. Current and former law enforcement and intelligence officials say Russia could also have tried to use stolen voter data to gain leverage over witting or unwitting accomplices in the Trump camp, by involving them in a broader conspiracy.”
“The House and Senate Intelligence committees held hearings on June 22 to highlight the ongoing vulnerability of the U.S. election systems. “I’m deeply concerned,” said North Carolina Republican Senator Richard Burr who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, that “we could be here in two or four years talking about a much worse crisis.”
“Cyber-security officials testifying at the Senate hearing acknowledged for the first time the extent of the Russian effort to interfere with the election. Twenty-one states saw such intrusions last year, a senior official from the Department of Homeland Security, Jeanette Manfra, said. None of the intrusions affected the vote count itself, all the officials testified.”
“That has not reassured some Hill leaders. “There’s no evidence they were able to affect the counting within the machines,” says the top Democrat on the House Intelligence committee, Congressman Adam Schiff of California. But, he added, “the effect on the election is quite a different matter.”
“The Russian efforts against state and local databases were so widespread that top Obama administration cyber-security officials assumed that by Election Day Moscow’s agents had probed all 50 states. “At first it was one state, then three, then five, then a dozen,” says Anthony Ferrante, a former FBI cybersecurity official and member of the White House team charged with preparedness and response to the cyber intrusion. At that point, says Michael Daniel, who led the White House effort to secure the vote against the Russian intrusions, “We had to assume that they actually tried to at least rattle the doorknobs on all 50, and we just happened to find them in a few of them.”
“Many hackers, including state-sponsored ones, use automated programs to target hundreds or even thousands of computers to check for vulnerabilities. But confirming intrusions is hard. As far as officials have been able to determine, the number of actual successful intrusions, where Russian agents gained sufficient access to attempt to alter, delete or download any information, was “less than a dozen,” current and former officials say. But that wasn’t the only worry.”
“In addition to the threat to the vote we were also very concerned about the public confidence in the integrity of the electoral system,” says Ferrante.”
“Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether any laws were broken in relation to the Russian attack. The Congressional intelligence probes also seek to determine the nature and scope of the Russian espionage operation in order to protect future elections.”
“The integrity of the entire system is in question,” says Bahar, “So you need the system to push back and find out what happened and why, so it never happens again.”