Dems push for Homeland Security, FBI briefing on Russian attacks on voting systems

Dems push for Homeland Security, FBI briefing on Russian attacks on voting systems
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A group of nearly two-dozen Democratic lawmakers wants the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and FBI to brief the entire Congress on Russia’s efforts to target state voter systems ahead of the 2016 election.

The Democratic lawmakers asked House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDems make history, and other takeaways from Tuesday's primaries Ironworker and star of viral video wins Dem primary for Speaker Ryan's seat Live results: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Vermont, Connecticut hold primaries MORE (R-Wis.) to arrange such a briefing in a letter sent Tuesday, labeling Moscow’s efforts to target election-related systems an “attack.” 

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The letter was signed by House Democrats representing 18 of the 21 states identified by Homeland Security earlier this year as Russian targets before the 2016 election.

In addition to a full briefing, the lawmakers also pressed Ryan to direct relevant congressional committees to investigate Russia’s targeting of state election-related systems. 

The House and Senate Intelligence Committees as well as the Senate Judiciary Committee are already investigating Russian interference in the election. 

“We respectfully request that you ask DHS and the FBI to brief all Members of Congress on the Russian attack on 21 states voting systems, direct the relevant Congressional committees to investigate this attack, and seek bipartisan solutions to secure our elections going forward,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter to Ryan. 

“When a sovereign nation attempts to meddle in our elections, it is an attack on our country,” they wrote.

Homeland Security formally notified election officials in the various states of the targeting effort in September. The efforts largely consisted of hacking preparations, such as testing for vulnerabilities. However, voter registration databases in Arizona and Illinois suffered breaches.

Homeland Security officials first revealed that Russia had targeted election-related systems in 21 states during public testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee in June. 

As a result of a decision made in the waning days of the Obama administration following Russia’s interference effort, Homeland Security designated election infrastructure as “critical,” opening it up to federal protections in states and localities that request aid. 

Since, the department has stood up a special council to engage with state and local election officials on potential threats to their voter registration databases and other systems. 

Officials are offering penetration testing and other services to states that want to shore up the cybersecurity of their systems ahead of upcoming elections. 

Still, some lawmakers have indicated that the federal government isn’t doing enough. For instance, two House Democrats have called on appropriators to allot $400 million for states to upgrade outdated voting equipment and secure their systems.