The US Remains Vulnerable in the Next Election, Russia Targeted Elections Systems in 2016
WASHINGTON, (BM) – The Senate Intelligence Committee concluded Thursday that election systems in all 50 states were targeted by Russia in 2016, an effort more far-reaching than previously acknowledged and one largely undetected by the states and federal officials at the time, learned BulgarianMilitary, quoting New York Times.
But while the bipartisan report’s warning that the United States remains vulnerable in the next election is clear, its findings were so heavily redacted at the insistence of American intelligence agencies that even some key recommendations for 2020 were blacked out.
The report — the first volume of several to be released from the committee’s investigation into Russia’s 2016 election interference — came 24 hours after the former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III warned that Russia was moving again to interfere “as we sit here.”
While details of many of the hackings directed by Russian intelligence, particularly in Illinois and Arizona, are well known, the committee described “an unprecedented level of activity against state election infrastructure” intended largely to search for vulnerabilities in the security of the election systems.
It concluded that while there was no evidence that any votes were changed in actual voting machines, “Russian cyberactors were in a position to delete or change voter data” in the Illinois voter database. The committee found no evidence that they did so.
In his testimony to two House committees on Wednesday, Mr. Mueller had sought to highlight the continued threat that Russia or other adversaries would seek to interfere in the 2020 elections. He said many more “countries are developing capability to replicate what the Russians have done.”
While the Senate Intelligence Committee’s findings were bipartisan, they came on a day when Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, moved again to block consideration of election security legislation put forward by Democrats.
Mr. McConnell has long opposed giving the federal government a greater hand in an institution of American democracy typically run by the states.
And despite the warnings about the Russia threat, he argues that Congress has already done enough — passing $380 million worth of grants for states to update their election systems and supporting executive branch agencies as they make their own changes. Some administration officials have suggested that the issue is not getting enough high-level attention because President Trump equates any public discussion of malign Russian election activity with questions about the legitimacy of his victory.
“It’s just a highly partisan bill from the same folks who spent two years hyping up a conspiracy theory about President Trump and Russia and who continue to ignore this administration’s progress at correcting the Obama administration’s failure on this subject,” Mr. McConnell said of the Democratic bill.
Mr. McConnell has held fast to his position despite withering criticism from Democrats, and agitation from some in his party who want the Senate to move more modest, bipartisan legislation. The Democratic proposal, already passed by the House, would have given the states hundreds of millions of dollars in grants, mandated the use of backup paper ballots and required risk-limiting postelection audits.
“This is not a Democratic issue, a Republican issue,” said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader. “This is not a liberal issue, a moderate issue, a conservative issue. This is an issue of patriotism, of national security, of protecting the very integrity of American democracy, something so many of our forbears died for.”
“And what do we hear from the Republican side?” he said. “Nothing.”
While the report is not directly critical of either American intelligence agencies or the states, it described what amounted to a cascading intelligence failure, in which the scope of the Russian effort was underestimated, warnings to the states were too muted, and state officials either underreacted or, in some cases, resisted federal efforts to offer help.
Even today, after a two-and-a-half-year investigation, the committee conceded that “Russian intentions regarding U.S. election infrastructure remain unclear.” Moscow’s intelligence agencies — chiefly the G.R.U., Russia’s main military intelligence unit — may have “intended to exploit vulnerabilities in the election infrastructure during the 2016 elections and, for unknown reasons, decided not to execute those options.”
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Source: New York Times