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New federal cybersecurity lead says 'rumor control' site will remain up through January

New federal cybersecurity lead says 'rumor control' site will remain up through January
© Greg Nash

Brandon Wales, the nation's new top federal cybersecurity official, said Thursday that his agency intends to leave up its “rumor control” webpage that pushes back against election misinformation and disinformation until after the Georgia Senate runoff elections in January. 

Wales, who took over as acting director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) after former Director Christopher Krebs was fired by President TrumpDonald TrumpProject Veritas surveilled government officials to expose anti-Trump sentiments: report Cheney: Fox News has 'a particular obligation' to refute election fraud claims The Memo: What now for anti-Trump Republicans? MORE, said the webpage was “an important way for us to put out accurate information about the security of voting infrastructure.”

“What I’ve told our staff is that our election security mission, particularly associated with the Protect 2020 effort, will continue until all the elections are complete,” Wales said at the Aspen Institute’s virtual Cyber Summit. 

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“We will keep issuing rumor control entries as we think that the situation warrants it and where we can actually have an impact, and will we do that through the end of this cycle, which hopefully will happen sometime in early January,” he added.

The Georgia Senate runoff elections, which will determine control of the Senate, are set to take place the first week of January. 

CISA's “rumor control” page was updated to include two new items Wednesday, with CISA detailing ballot protection efforts that prevent destruction, and outlining the lengthy process voting systems go through to be certified for use by state and federal testing programs. 

The website recently came under fire by President Trump, as the page helped to debunk voter fraud and election interference concerns Trump voiced in the days after the election.

Trump’s concerns around the website led in part to Krebs being fired and to former CISA Deputy Director Matthew Travis and Bryan Ware, a former top CISA cyber official, being forced by the White House to resign. Wales formerly served as the executive director of CISA, the third in seniority. 

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Trump also took issue with a statement put out a few days after Election Day by CISA and state and local election officials describing the 2020 election as the "most secure in American history.” 

Wales said Thursday that CISA “stands by” that statement, and that “as of right now, we do not have any specific evidence of systems being compromised.”

Wales noted though that “there are times when our statement has been misconstrued to say there were no problems with the election, that it was fraud free, and that is just not the case.”

“We do believe that it was secure from external interference which is our mandate, and we are proud of the work we did to get to that point,” he said. 

Wales was not the only official to stand up and voice support for the security of the recent elections on Thursday. 

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All four bipartisan members of the Election Assistance Commission (EAC), the agency responsible for helping states to administer elections, put out a lengthy statement detailing its role in certifying voting equipment and expressing confidence in the security of these systems.

“We, as the only federal agency completely dedicated to election administration, have confidence in the state and local election administrators who ran the 2020 election, and the voting systems certified by the EAC,” the EAC commissioners said. 

The National Council on Election Integrity, a bipartisan group made up of more than 40 former elected officials, former Cabinet secretaries, retired military officials, and civic leaders, also voiced support for the integrity of the recent elections.

The group — which includes former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsExperts see 'unprecedented' increase in hackers targeting electric grid Intel heads to resume worldwide threats hearing scrapped under Trump Lack of cyber funds in Biden infrastructure plan raises eyebrows MORE and former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff — put out a separate statement describing the 2020 elections as “safe, secure, transparent, free, and fair.”

“In 2020, a record number of Americans made their voices heard,” the group of former officials said. “Now it’s time for all Americans — including President Trump — to accept the election results. Peddling baseless conspiracy theories only undermines our democratic process and makes it harder for the country to unite to tackle the numerous serious issues facing us today, from our national security to our economy to the deadly coronavirus pandemic.”