WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, calling on the Department to step up its efforts to protect the United States from Russian interference in our elections.
In their letter, Senators Heinrich and Collins requested that the Department inform Congress about any additional authority or resources that it requires to ensure that state election agencies have the resources they need to secure their voting systems. They also expressed concern about the pace of the Department’s response to Russian influence activities. For instance, as of June 2017 – nearly eight months after the 2016 elections – not a single chief election official had received a security clearance. While DHS sponsored a one-day classified briefing at a recent conference of state election officials, many states still lack a senior election official with the necessary clearance to permit them to fully understand when their information systems are being targeted by a sophisticated adversary.
“Now that 2018 special elections have begun and the 2018 primary and general elections are coming up quickly, we must assume that Russian actors will not stand idly by as the American people begin to cast their ballots,” Senators Heinrich and Collins wrote. “The Department of Homeland Security, in conjunction with the Election Assistance Commission, needs to do much more to accelerate efforts to assist states in the 2018 and 2020 elections.”
“As the lead agency for assisting critical infrastructure, we ask that you provide your assessment of the additional authorities or funding that Congress could provide to the Department to defend against these attacks from Russia or other adversaries, and particularly attacks aimed at undermining the public confidence in voting and election information systems,” the Senators continued.
At a hearing last month held by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that examined worldwide security threats to our nation, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said, “Frankly, the United States is under attack,” and that, “at a minimum, we expect Russia to continue using propaganda, social media, false-flag personas, sympathetic spokespeople, and other means of influence to try to exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States." His assessment was echoed by the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Mike Pompeo, and the Director of the National Security Agency, Admiral Mike Rogers.
Last October, Senators Heinrich and Collins introduced the Securing America’s Voting Equipment (SAVE) Act, bipartisan legislation that would help safeguard voting systems, registration data, and ballots from theft, manipulation, and malicious computer hackers.
A copy of the letter is available here.