An exclusive report by the Daily Caller News Foundation Investigative Group has revealed that at least 21 states are still in the dark about which of their jurisdictions’ election systems was compromised by Russian hackers.
The first the state officials were even made aware of the hacking was when a Department of Homeland Security official let it slip during a hearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on June 21, 2017.
During that hearing, Jeanette Manfra, acting deputy undersecretary for cybersecurity and communications at the DHS, stated, “We have evidence of election-related systems in 21 states that were targeted.”
According to the Daily Caller investigation, the Secretaries of State in at least 40 states all say they were shocked to learn of the Russian hacking, as none of them were ever notified.
A spokeswoman for the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) confirmed, “We can’t find any secretaries of state who say they have been told they are part of this list of ‘targeted’ states.”
A DHS spokesman told the DCNF, “When we become aware of a potential victim, DHS notifies the owner or operator of the system, who may not necessarily be the secretary of state’s office.” The spokesman maintained that owners and operators of the election registration lists are usually private vendors, and not actually owned by the state.
Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos, said, “We were not notified. None of the states were notified.” He added, “One of the reasons why they said they couldn’t tell us about the 21 states is because we didn’t have security clearances. Doesn’t it make sense that they might find a way to give us a security clearance so we can talk to each other about this?”
“If a local election system is hacked, you should notify the state system, and you probably should be notifying all state systems to let them know this breach was made so we can all take action to prevent it from impacting us,” Condos said.
“Well it is extraordinary and is somewhat ridiculous,” said Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson. “It’s frustration beyond belief. I have never heard from any secretaries of state and I believe that NASS has not heard either from any secretary that they have been told that their state was one of the states that was targeted during the 2016 election,” she said.
“Here’s what I’m learning: Unless a secretary of state gets the proper clearance, I’m not sure we will ever find out if our state was mentioned,” Lawson added.
The DCNF reported that both Democrat and Republican secretaries of state are opposed to the step taken by former DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, when he suddenly designated all state election systems in January 2017 as “federal critical infrastructure” without consulting the states beforehand.
The states see it as a federal power grab to “nationalize” the election system, which is currently run by state and local governments.
The DHS spokesman stated, “We plan to work with secretaries of state and senior election officials to determine how best to share this information while protecting the integrity of investigations and the confidentiality of system owners.”
“The disconnect is what we’ve been saying since last August … that they need to understand how our system works before they start creating regulations to secure it,” Condos said.
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