Senate Intel Committee To Facebook In Russian Election Meddling Investigation


Federal officials have also concluded that Russian hackers targeted election systems in 21 states and breached that of at least one, Illinois, during the last election cycle. No votes were changed, though.

Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, told the Senate committee at a hearing last month that the intelligence agencies were still grappling with these twin challenges: neutralizing Moscow’s disinformation campaign and securing the integrity of vulnerable election systems around the country. The senators shared that assessment.


“The Russians were relentless in attempting to meddle in the 2016 elections, and they will continue their efforts to undermine public confidence in Western democracies and in the legitimacy of our elections,” Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, told reporters on Tuesday after the recommendations were released.

The senators called on Congress to “urgently” make available funds and other resources for states to update voting software and systems, institute vote audits and hire additional staff and contractors focused on cybersecurity.

The senators said 14 states had used at least some machines in 2016 without a paper trail that could be audited. Five states used only those machines.

At the same time, they took pains to make clear that while it was the states’ responsibility to run their own elections, the federal government should play a significant role in monitoring threats and providing resources. Both were to blame for missteps in 2016, they said.

“We were all disappointed that states, the federal government, the Department of Homeland Security were not more on their game in advance of the 2016 elections,” Mr. Warner said. While the department had made important improvements since then, he added, it was still a work in progress.

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The senators pointed to top state election officials, who have complained in recent weeks that the federal government has left them in the dark on specifics of the threat to voter databases, machines and other systems.


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The Intelligence Committee is likely to try to illustrate those breakdowns and possible solutions on Wednesday during a hearing with Homeland Security and state election officials on attempted attacks by the Russians on state election systems in 2016 and the federal response.

The committee has also assembled a classified written report on election security. But the document has to be submitted to the intelligence agencies for review and declassification before it can be released publicly, which could take weeks or months.

More than a year into its investigation into Russia’s meddling, the Intelligence Committee has thus far offered little visibility into its work. Witnesses have come and gone in relative secret. Staff members and lawmakers have pored over thousands of pages of documents related to the Trump campaign, as well as sensitive government secrets.

And while the House Intelligence Committee shut down its investigation last week amid rancorous partisan disputes, the Senate panel is said to be nowhere near completion, with months of work left to go. Whether the increased scrutiny that comes with being the only remaining investigation on Capitol Hill will change that remains unclear.

In a show of bipartisan resolve, nearly every member of the committee took part in Tuesday’s announcement and those who spoke endorsed the committee’s findings.

The committee’s leaders had last updated the public on the investigation in October, when they said that a review had broadly confirmed the conclusions of American spy agencies that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia directed a campaign of hacking and propaganda to disrupt the 2016 presidential election. They said then that their investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian effort was still open.

Mr. Burr said that Tuesday’s recommendations and the accompanying report would be the first in a series of findings that the committee would release in the coming months, as it closed out portions of the investigation. He said to expect the next update from the committee in about a month.

The panel does not plan to draft specific legislation related to its election security findings given its lack of jurisdiction, but Mr. Burr said its members would work with the relevant committees to implement the recommendations. Lawmakers in both chambers have introduced competing bills to address security at the ballot box and cyberdefenses, but Republican leaders who control the House and Senate have shown little interest in advancing them.

The House panel, for its part, is scheduled to vote on Thursday to release a final report drafted by Republicans that includes more than 20 election-related recommendations.

Follow Nicholas Fandos and Matthew Rosenberg on Twitter: @npfandos and @AllMattNYT.

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Source : https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/20/us/politics/senate-intelligence-election-security-midterms.html