Matt Masterson, one of the U.S. government’s top election experts, is leaving his post as of next week for a role in academia where he will continue to study the disinformation campaigns that have plagued the country, he told CyberScoop on Thursday. Masterson has been a senior adviser at the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency since 2018. He led a team that reassured the public that the 2020 election was secure, despite President Donald Trump’s baseless assertions to the contrary. Masterson will join the Stanford Internet Observatory, a team of academics and tech experts led by former Facebook security chief Alex Stamos, which works on election security and social media challenges. Masterson said his last day at CISA will be Dec. 18. At Stanford, “We’re going to unpack what we’ve learned over the last few years [on election security],” Masterson said in an interview, including “what more needs to be done on a broader level.” Masterson said he wants to continue to tackle disinformation campaigns, which could extend to the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine. Experts fear that a large swath of Americans are distrustful of the efficacy of the vaccine, in part because of conspiracy theories that spread online. Masterson, a former election official in Ohio, was part of a team of CISA officials who rebuilt trust between election officials across the country and federal personnel after the 2016 election.
National: ‘A dark, empty place:’ Public officials face personal threats as tensions flare | Hannah Knowles, Annie Gowen and Tom Hamburger/The Washington Post
State and local officials of both parties have warned that President Trump’s increasingly desperate tweets about election fraud are fueling the potential for violence as well as another ominous trend of 2020, in which public servants and others who disagree are targeted at their offices and homes with armed protests, harassing phone calls and stalkers. Last week, an “enemies” list of state and federal officials who rejected Trump’s baseless election conspiracy theories floated up from the dark corners of the Web, with home addresses listed and red targets over their photos, the latest in a string of threats to public officials. The list falsely accused swing-state governors, voting systems executives and the former top U.S. cybersecurity official responsible for securing November’s presidential election of “changing votes and working against the President” in a treasonous attempt to “overthrow our democracy.” The names from the list shared on social media included the hashtags #remembertheirfaces and #NoQuarterForTraitors. Over the weekend, demonstrations by Trump supporters in D.C.; Olympia, Wash.; and elsewhere turned violent, with four people stabbed in the nation’s capital and one person shot in Olympia. These kinds of conflicts, coupled with increasingly personal attacks on public officials, are raising fears of worse to come. “If blood is spilled, it is on the hands of the president,” an attorney for Christopher Krebs said in a statement Wednesday. Krebs, the former top cybersecurity official, is suing the Trump campaign and one of its lawyers working to overturn the election results for defamation, after the president fired him and the lawyer suggested that Krebs should be executed. “Trump and U.S. senators have refused to condemn these death threats,” said Jordan Fuchs, the deputy secretary of state in Georgia, after the “enemies” list surfaced online.