A top White House official announced this morning that President Obama has ordered a “full review” of claims of election-related hacking, and wants a report before he leaves office Jan. 20.
Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, made the announcement at a breakfast arranged by the Christian Science Monitor.
“The President has directed the Intelligence Community to conduct a full review of what happened during the 2016 election process. It is to capture lessons learned from that and to report to a range of stakeholders.”
We may be crossed into a new threshold and it is incumbent upon us to take stock of that, to review, to conduct some after-action, to understand what this means, what has happened and to impart those lessons learned.”
Senate Armed Forces Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) is preparing an investigation into alleged Russian hacking affecting election activity and cyberthreats to the U.S. military. He said he’ll be “working closely” with Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), Chairman of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, on the matter.
What exactly the White House means by “election-related” hacking remains to be seen. The scope would likely include the DNC server hack and the Clinton campaign email leaks, which the FBI believes were orchestrated by Russian hackers.
Will it include an investigation of Jill Stein’s claims that voting machines that aren’t even connected to the internet were hacked by using floppy disks? Before the election, when many in the media believed Hillary Clinton would win and Donald Trump and his supporters would have a hard time accepting the results, CNN published a series of articles quoting election officials and cybersecurity experts who said such hacking was not possible.
From the October 19 “No, the presidential election can’t be hacked” piece:
But to influence the outcome of a presidential election or statewide race would require physical tampering on a grand scale across in counties across multiple states on Election Day: In other words, it essentially can’t be done.
“Nobody is going to be able to change the outcome of the presidential vote by hacking voting machines. The system is too distributed, too decentralized, too many implementations for any individual actor or group to make substantial change,” Nicholas Weaver, a computer scientist and cybersecurity expert at the International Computer Science Institute at the University of California, Berkeley.
“Yes, they’re horribly insecure, yes, many of them give me nightmares,” he continued, “but the attacker’s not going to be able to change the outcome of the presidential vote that way.”
Since the election didn’t turn out as they’d hoped, there’s a different talking point.
Clearly, any possible intrusion into such high-level political organizations by foreign governments (or groups paid by foreign governments) is a legitimate national security concern and should be investigated. And the Senate should absolutely be aware of cybersecurity threats and investigate possible incursions into military and intelligence computer systems. But it’s irresponsible of the administration to suggest that a foreign government could have changed the outcome of the election, especially when so many on the left are still having difficulty accepting its results.