- The Senate Intelligence Committee released the first volume of its final report on Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election.
- The document contains many redactions and focuses primarily on election security, includes new details of how the Russians targeted voting infrastructure in 2016, and what federal, state, and local officials can do to protect against foreign interference going forward.
- Scroll down to read the committee’s key findings from the first volume of its report.
- Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.
This story is developing. Check back for updates.
The Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday released the first volume of its final multi-part report on Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election. The panel had been conducting its investigation of the matter in parallel with the FBI and other congressional committees since the US intelligence community first revealed Russia was meddling in the race.
The first volume of the Senate committee’s final report focuses on election security and contains significant redactions. Many of the publicly revealed details have been confirmed by the former special counsel Robert Mueller, as well as federal agencies tasked with combatting foreign meddling.
The key findings highlighted in the document were:
- Russia “directed extensive activity” from at least 2014 to 2017 “against U.S. election infrastructure” both at the state and local level. The committee reviewed the intelligence underlying the Department of Homeland Security’s inquiry on the matter from 2017 and concluded that there was no evidence that any votes were changed or that voting machines were manipulated.
- The committee is not confident what Russia’s intent was, but it “may have sought to undermine confidence in the 2016 U.S. elections simply through the discovery of their activity.”
- The Russians exploited the loopholes in the US intelligence apparatus to try to tamper with critical election infrastructure. Because US intelligence is primarily “foreign-facing,” this may have made domestic cybersecurity more vulnerable to being breached.
- The DHS and FBI alerted states about the possibility of Russian cyberattacks in the late summer and fall of 2016, “but the warnings did not provide enough information or go to the right people.”
- Federal, state, and local officials in 2016 were torn over whether to alert the general public of Russia’s attacks. Some “were deeply concerned” that warning the public would do more harm than good by undermining confidence in the electoral process.
- Russia’s interference in the 2016 election warrants “renewed attention” to “vulnerabilities in US voting infrastructure” going forward.
- To that end, the DHS is trying harder to work with states and give them resources to help secure future elections against foreign interference.
- Congress also granted $US380 million to states last year to help bolster cybersecurity and replace faulty voting machines.
- The “DHS and other federal government entities remain respectful of the limits of federal involvement in state election systems. States should be firmly in the lead for running elections.”
The report made several recommendations on how the US can combat foreign interference going forward. They included:
- That states should be “firmly in the lead” of running elections.
- Effectively communicating to adversaries that meddling in an election will be viewed as a hostile act.
- Shore up cyber defence, including the cyber capabilities of government agencies like the DHS and the FBI.
- Strengthen the communication channels between federal, state, and local agencies, with a focus on sharing more information with state officials.
- Implement post-election audits of state and local voter registration systems.
- Use paper ballots and optical scanners because they are the least vulnerable to foreign interference, and resist pushes for online voting.
The document also included a five-page section on “minority views” from Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, who said he disagreed with the report’s primary recommendation to reinforce “state’s primacy in running elections.”
The US’ cybersecurity and electoral vulnerabilities “pose a direct and urgent threat to American democracy which demands immediate congressional action,” Wyden wrote. “The defence of US national security against a highly sophisticated foreign government cannot be left to state and county officials.”
Mueller warns of continued Russian interference and says accepting foreign help is ‘unpatriotic’ and ‘wrong’
This volume of the Senate’s report comes one day after Mueller testified before Congress about his findings in the FBI’s Russia investigation.
Among other things, Mueller sounded the alarm about continued Russian interference in the US electoral process, telling lawmakers that not only have they not been deterred, but “they’re doing it as we sit here.”
Mueller also offered a stark view of American political campaigns accepting or inviting electoral interference from foreign governments.
“Have we established a new normal from this past campaign that is going to apply to future campaigns, so that if any one of us running for the U.S. House ― any candidate for the U.S. Senate, any candidate for the presidency of the United States ― aware that a hostile foreign power is trying to influence an election, has no duty to report that to the FBI or other authorities?” Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont asked during one of the hearings.
In another exchange with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, Mueller emphasised that accepting foreign help is “unpatriotic” and “wrong.” His remarks came weeks after President Donald Trump told ABC News in an interview that he would be open to entertaining offers of foreign dirt in the future.
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