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Former DHS Secretary Testifies On 2016 Election Cyberattacks

by Countable | 6.21.17

Former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson testified about Russian cyberattacks on state electoral systems and DNC servers prior to the 2016 presidential election in front of the House Intelligence Committee Wednesday morning.

Johnson stated in his written testimony published by the committee that he became aware of the Russian hacks of DNC servers "sometime in 2016." When he questioned his staff about whether or not DHS had made appropriate overtures to help the DNC with cyber security, he discovered to his dismay that the offer had been made and rebuffed:

" I pressed my staff to know whether DHS was sufficiently proactive, and on the scene helping the DNC identify the intruders and patch vulnerabilities. The answer, to the best of my recollection, was not reassuring: the FBI and the DNC had been in contact with each other months before about the intrusion, and the DNC did not feel it needed DHS’s assistance at that time.”

Republican committee members at the hearing focused many of their questions on this point. Rep. Steve King (R-NY) pointed out that the offer of help was coming from an administration of the same party, so the response from the DNC was particularly inexplicable.

Watch King and Johnson’s conversation below, starting at minute 43:45 through 44:55.

Of particular concern to lawmakers from both parties was the interaction between DHS and state electoral officials. In his written testimony Johnson documented floating the idea of designating electoral infrastructure as "critical infrastructure" to state officials in mid-August, in the hopes of dealing proactively with the possibility of Russian cyberattacks. He explained that to designate the voting systems as “critical infrastructure” would mean two things:

"(1) that election officials, upon request, would be a top priority for the receipt of DHS’s services, and (2) that, as part of critical infrastructure, election infrastructure would receive the benefit of various domestic and international cybersecurity protections.”

To Johnson’s disappointment the response "ranged from neutral to negative". State officials did not want the federal government exerting influence over their state systems, which Johnson stated was a misunderstanding of the intent of the designation.

Johnson also detailed his multiple public statements regarding the potential for electoral hacking and repeated offers to the states of DHS assistance from early September through early October 2016. Lawmakers questioned whether or not the Obama administration had called enough public attention to the issue. Johnson reminded them that his most public statement, made in concert with former Director of National Security James Clapper, was overshadowed by the release on the same day of an Access Hollywood tape in which Donald Trump bragged about groping women.

Johnson outlined in his testimony specific recommendations for how to proceed moving forward to better protect elections from cyber intrusion. Watch below, minutes 55:00 - 56:05, as Johnson outlines some of his ideas in response to questions from Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL):

After the conclusion of the election Johnson did finally choose to move forward with the "critical infrastructure" designation of state election infrastructure, and current DHS Secretary John Kelly has upheld the designation.

Do you support states working in concert with the federal government to develop concrete plans for protecting our electoral systems from future cyberattacks? Use the Take Action button to tell your reps what you think!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: Wikimedia / Creative Commons)

Countable

Written by Countable

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(87)
  • Donna
    06/21/2017
    ···

    Does this Congress care about this country at all? Tampering with our electoral process by a foreign country is outrageous and should be addressed immediately. Instead of scheming behind closed doors about ways to ruin people's lives, taking away health care, defunding education, taking away Veteran's benefits, plundering and destroying our National Parks, giving banks more ways to take advantage, rewarding the obscenely rich... the list goes on and on - do something CONSTRUCTIVE and make this a priority. When voting, the American people must be assured that their vote means something and is not being interfered with by anyone anywhere.

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  • Janice
    06/21/2017
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    People I don't care what your political persuasion is. Know this: THE ISSUE OF RUSSIA MEDDLING IN OUR ELECTORAL PROCESS IS NOT A POLITICAL ISSUE, IT IS A CRITICAL ISSUE OF NATIONAL SECURITY!!!! Thus it is not to be ignored!!!

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  • VSB
    06/21/2017
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    I support states working with Feds to protect our electoral system.

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  • Dara
    06/21/2017
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    I grow increasingly tired of elected representatives, democrat and republican, that sit and do NOTHING in the face of all of these illegal acts. You are a bunch of spoiled millionaires! Crimes have been committed and it is time to prosecute and stop doing business with autocrats. Stop doing business with Russia and Putin, he is a murderer and con artist. Represent America and not corporate interests that line your pockets. Perhaps we need to start voting for a new representative each cycle and start an American Party, AND get rid of dark money. NO ONE should be able to contribute more than $1000 to any candidate, provide trips, meals, gifts, or anything beyond $1000 dollars. That includes individuals and corporations. Stop this insanity!

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  • Sean
    06/21/2017
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    It's ridiculous how much time is being spent on this "Russian interference." The Russians had in no way influenced my vote. HOWEVER, it's clear that the DNC rigged the election of Hillary>Bernie. Why don't we hear more about that and them fixing their corruption?

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  • Sally
    06/21/2017
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    No matter your political affiliation a foreign government interfering in our elections should frighten and enrage you. Period

    Like (22)
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  • McD
    06/21/2017
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    Protect our electoral process!

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  • Frankie
    06/22/2017
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    Blown away that there are people who don't care about this. Saw a comment below that "Russian meddling didn't change MY vote"... How self centered could you possibly be? A hostile and deeply manipulative foreign superpower hacked and breached our election process and you don't care because you don't believe it affected you?!? You don't care because your side 'won'?!? We all lose right now. I wonder how many of you know anything at all about Russia's history of spying and manipulating others for their benefit? Hundred of years of this. To seek knowledge you have to care about all people in your quest for truth, not simply reinforce your already decided view

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  • Joanna
    06/21/2017
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    Ppl kill me with the protecting of their criminal, sexual predator President. This is disillusioned ppl is not the issue at hand! The issue is Russia or any other foreign country being able to electronically mess with elections or any time of cyber sabotage...this cannot be allowed to happen or should be taken lightly. Get ur heads out ya butts and look at the real issues!

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  • Dre-Gal
    06/21/2017
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    Absolutely we need federal help to keep out elections on the up and up. The have the latest technology and insight to cybercrime. They can work together with the state but personally it's long overdue to have one universal voting type implement by each state on their own. The notion that we have so many different types is still unbelievable to me. Paper, electronic, chads. Why do we still have chads in states after Fl debacle. One universal tool. Monitored by each state.

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  • Mancos
    06/21/2017
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    I am disheartened that the dialogue regarding Russian interference is cloaked by partisanship. Add a healthcare bill veiled in secrecy, a Senate that doesn't require 60 votes to ensure collaborative efforts and the erosion of women's healthcare choices. On top of all that, a shooting at a baseball game becomes fodder for more destructive rhetoric. I am fearful that this is the beginning of the end of this great experiment of our democracy.

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  • MarkYukhimets
    06/21/2017
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    So let see who gave the Russian access?, DNC by approval of Hillary and Obama administration corrupted fraudulent system, every time they open there mouth things turned more heat towards them. I think DNC is so corrupted they don't know what to do next to keep the heat away knowing that soon they will boil and then burn. Unless they make public arrest of there own colleagues they will keep burning.

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  • Wesley
    06/22/2017
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    A foreign government interfering in our election is not a political issue but a matter of national security and a grave concern for the citizens who take part in our process.

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  • Christine
    06/21/2017
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    Our national security is at stake and I request that you all work together to create laws that allow the states to work with the federal government on cyber security. This should be started immediately with a particular focus on protecting our elections. We need to start working on this now for our 2020 presidential election and beyond.

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  • denali
    06/21/2017
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    This was an attack on our democracy. There needs to be sanctions on Russia. We can't let this go unanswered. We must aggressively answer this. We must investigate this matter completely and protect our country. It is outrageous that our lawmakers are not up in arms about this and taking care of the situation. Putin is a murderous thug and he must pay a price.

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  • CatherineCampbell
    06/21/2017
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    BRENT A president can be impeached for obstruction of justice. That was one of the charges that was used when Congress try to impeach Bill Clinton. And despite what the lawyers are saying a president can have conflicts of interest comma and a president can commit treason. A president is not above the law.

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  • Richard
    06/22/2017
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    Every investigation that says there was Russian influence has come back with "We have NO proof but we think it happened. " Doesn't this actually demonstrate Pres. Trump's statement of a "witch hunt" ?

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  • Brent
    06/21/2017
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    GLad we are changing the phrase from collusion to meddling. Now change obstruction to "THE PRESIDENT CAN NOT BE INDICTED FOR OBSTRUCTION UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE"

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  • James
    06/21/2017
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    The security of a political party's inner workings to include all discussions, transactions via telephone, computer etc; are the responsibility of that politely party not the federal government! Obviously the Democrats were hacked by outside entities! Wiki Leaks! Not directed by Russia! No Republican collided with Russia or Wiki Leaks to hack any rival party's documents! Internet communications! Telephone calls! Or even break into a hotel room to search file cabinets! Too bad! Look in the mirror! It will show Hillary Clinton back at you! It will show the former president back at you!

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  • Bruce
    06/22/2017
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    Exposed even more corruption from the Democrats and Obama !!!

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