Special Counsel Robert Mueller III has been investigating Russian collusion with the Trump campaign and 2016 election since May 2017. Mr. Trump continues to insist that there has been no Russian collusion, but the actual facts have begun to override his words. According to ABC News:
‘DHS officials have repeatedly said they detected “scanning” – when hackers scan a target for security gaps –- in 21 states.’
Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) accused the Department of Homeland Security of misleading people in their reports. McCaskill reminded officials that in the lead up to the 2016 election, only about half of the states had tools to detect scanning. DHS was only able to publicly cite the number of states, 21, where scanning was detected.
‘The impression that was given at the time is that we had knowledge that 21 states were [targeted] and the assumption was that the remaining states were not. But in fact that is an incorrect assumption.
‘We really don’t have an idea how many states that Russia tried to hack.’
Assistant Secretary Jeanette Manfra, not agreeing with McCaskill’s assertion that the public had been mislead said:
‘We only had the visibility that we had, and I believe I’ve been clear about that as I’ve discussed it. How the media reports it I cannot control.’
Last year, Manfra told the Senate Intelligence Committee:
‘As of right now, we have evidence of election-related systems in 21 states that were targeted.’
Last month, she also told the committee that the authorities are “confident” the “21 number is accurate” based on “the visibility that we had at that time.”
Manfra did acknowledge that it is likely all 50 states were targeted by Russian hacking. Manfra said:
‘Two years ago the Russian government launched a brazen, multi-faceted influence campaign aimed at undermining public faith in our democratic process, generally and our election specifically. That campaign involved cyber espionage, public disclosure of stolen data, cyber intrusions at the state and local voter registration systems, online propaganda, and more. We cannot let it happen again.’
Last month, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen warned lawmakers to prepared for a high possibility of hacking during the 2018 midterm elections. She explained that there are “potential vulnerabilities” embedded in voter databases and vote tabulation systems. Nielsen said:
‘We think vigilance is important, and we think there is a lot that we all need to do at all levels of government before we have the midterm elections.’
Senator Margaret Hassan (D-NH) alerted Manfra that six states have already held primary elections for the 2018 season and dozens more will follow in the coming weeks. Hassan asked Manfra:
‘Has DHS detected any cyber activity targeting election infrastructure by Russia or any other actors during this election season?’
‘We have not at this time.’
ABC News reported:
‘Manfra was not asked whether the U.S. intelligence community has detected any of the other measures that Russia deployed during the 2016 presidential election, particularly the use of social media like Facebook to spread false information and inflame tensions across the United States.’
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told Congress:
‘There should be no doubt that Russia perceives its past operations as successful and views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations.’
DHS is currently sharing intelligence with certain states in hopes that they can avoid threats facing their systems.
Featured image by MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images