U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen during a visit to the St. Louis area on Monday pledged the government’s assistance to states battling threats to election security, calling interference with elections one of the “principal national security threats.” Nielsen was a guest speaker at a two-day seminar on election security that began Monday at the headquarters of World Wide Technology in West Port Plaza. The event, hosted by Missouri Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, was also attended by 10 other secretaries of state on Monday, and more were expected Tuesday. Nielsen has recently spoken about a growing need for cybersecurity in elections, reversing the course of an administration that has been criticized for not doing enough.
“A year and a half ago, secretaries of state and the Department of Homeland Security did not get along at all,” Ashcroft said. “There was no communication whatsoever.”
Nielsen noted that her department’s focus when it was created after the 9/11 attacks was on fighting terrorism, but now includes protecting the nation against many different types of threats, including those to elections. She called on states to report malicious activity and said her department would provide support through no-cost technical assistance, or sharing best practices to fight hackers’ malicious software.
Those measures were not in place during the 2016 election, she said. “The more we share with each other, the more we can understand the risks and the more we can understand the patterns and the trends that are evolving.”