The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is denying the accuracy of an NBC News report that alleged Russia breached voter sites or registration systems in seven U.S. states prior to the 2016 election.
“NBC’s reporting tonight on the 2016 elections is not accurate and is actively undermining efforts of the Department of Homeland Security to work in close partnership with state and local governments to protect the nation’s election systems from foreign actors," DHS acting press secretary Tyler Q. Houlton said in a statement.
His comments come after U.S. intelligence officials told NBC News that an analysis requested by President Obama in the last weeks of his administration showed that Russian operatives penetrated the websites or databases of Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Texas and Wisconsin.
The officials said that several states were warned about the breaches before the 2016 election, but none were told that Moscow was behind it.
But DHS pushed back, saying in its statement: "We have no intelligence – new or old – that corroborates NBC’s reporting that state systems in seven states were compromised by Russian government actors. We believe tonight’s story to be factually inaccurate and misleading."
Six of the seven states that officials said were targeted deny they were breached, based on their own investigations, NBC News reported. All state and federal officials that spoke with the news outlet said that votes were not tampered with.
Illinois said they had detected a cyberattack on its voter registration system in 2016 but that nothing had been altered.
This is not the first NBC News report on possible Russian hacking that has drawn fire from DHS. Earlier this month, the agency pushed back against a report from the news outlet that claimed Russian hackers had "successfully penetrated" U.S. voter systems before the election.
That article drew on an interview with Jeanette Manfra, the department’s chief cybersecurity official. Manfra later issued a statement in response to the report, claiming NBC "misrepresented facts and confused the public with regard to Department of Homeland Security and state and local government efforts to combat election hacking."
The latest report comes as U.S. officials warn that Russia will likely attempt to meddle in the 2018 midterms.
DHS in September 2017 informed all 50 states whether they had been targeted or not prior to the 2016 election. Twenty-one states were targeted, most of them unsuccessfully, according to the agency.
In a poll released Monday, three-fourths of Americans said they believe Russia will try to influence future American elections and 60 percent said Trump isn’t doing enough to address this threat.
This story was updated at 9:17 p.m. to reflect the statement from DHS.