The Trump administration told a federal judge Wednesday that a legal challenge to an advisory commission’s request for sensitive data on voters from all 50 states could prevent the panel from investigating alleged voter fraud. Even as most states refuse to provide at least some of the data sought by the panel — including voters’ political affiliations and the last four digits of their Social Security numbers — the Justice Department argued that it is seeking only publicly available information. The lawsuit, filed Monday by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, asks the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to block the request as an invasion of privacy. Not so, the government responded.
Cybersecurity specialists are warning that President Donald Trump’s voter-fraud commission may unintentionally expose voter data to even more hacking and digital manipulation. Their concerns stem from a letter the commission sent to every state this week, asking for full voter rolls and vowing to make the information “available to the public.” The requested information includes full names, addresses, birth dates, political party and, most notably, the last four digits of Social Security numbers. The commission is also seeking data such as voter history, felony convictions and military service records. Digital security experts say the commission’s request would centralize and lay bare a valuable cache of information that cyber criminals could use for identity theft scams — or that foreign spies could leverage for disinformation schemes. “It is beyond stupid,” said Nicholas Weaver, a computer science professor at the University of California at Berkeley.
National: Forty-four states have refused to give certain voter information to fraud commission | CNN
Forty-one states have defied the Trump administration’s request for private voter information, according to a CNN inquiry to all 50 states. State leaders and voting boards across the country have responded to the letter with varying degrees of cooperation — from altogether rejecting the request to expressing eagerness to supply information that is public. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, vice chairman of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which President Donald Trump created by executive order in May, sent a letter to all 50 states last Wednesday requesting a bevy of voter data, which he notes will eventually be made available to the public.
Top officials in more than 10 states have announced they won’t turn over all voter roll data to President Trump’s commission on voter fraud. As of Friday afternoon, officials in New York, California, Massachusetts, Kentucky and Virginia had said they would not turn over any of their voter data to the voter fraud commission. Other officials in Connecticut, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Vermont, Utah, North Carolina, Indiana and Iowa said they would only turn over public information on voter rolls, but wouldn’t share private information. Wisconsin announced it would turn over public information but would charge the commission $12,500 to buy the voter roll data.
National: Who is Hans A. von Spakovsky of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity? | The Washington Post
President Trump on Thursday appointed a divisive conservative voting rights expert to spearhead the White House’s search into allegations of widespread fraud in the 2016 presidential election. The appointment of Hans von Spakovsky has reignited debate over the legitimacy of claims that include unsubstantiated accusations from Trump that “millions of people” voted illegally for Hillary Clinton. Von Spakovsky, a former Justice Department official, sparked legal battles over voting laws during the George W. Bush administration. Von Spakovsky, 58, will join the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, though it remains unclear what role he will take. The White House’s Thursday night announcement, which included several other administration posts, did not provide further details. The announcement did not include any biographical information about von Spakovsky, either.
House Republicans are taking aim at a small federal agency that helps provide election oversight and guidance, saying its functions are no longer necessary. A spending bill from the House Appropriations Committee unveiled Thursday would give the Election Assistance Commission 60 days to terminate itself. The small agency was created after the tightly contested 2000 presidential election. It has an annual budget of about $10 million and had just 31 employees on its rolls as of March. The agency writes election management guidelines and develops specifications for testing and certifying voting systems, among other tasks. … Democrats introduced an amendment at the markup to save the agency, arguing that its role was more important than ever given the attempts by the Russian government to interfere with the 2016 election. Republicans rejected that line of thinking, noting the Homeland Security Department, and not EAC, has jurisdiction over election-related cybersecurity issues.
At the same moment watchdogs are calling out a new White House panel’s massive request for voters’ personal data, Congress is trying to slash funding for a small bipartisan agency that’s supposed to improve the way elections run. The notation, buried at the bottom of page 69 of the House Financial Services Appropriation Bill for spending in Fiscal Year 2018, would yank the entire $4 million budget of the Election Assistance Commission. The EAC was created in 2002 thanks to the Help America Vote Act, which Congress passed “to make sweeping reforms to the nation’s voting process.” The commission’s job includes certifying the hardware and software used to conduct elections.
Pressure to examine voting machines used in the 2016 election grows daily as evidence builds that Russian hacking attacks were broader and deeper than previously known. And the Department of Homeland Security has a simple response: No. DHS officials from former secretary Jeh Johnson to acting Director of Cyber Division Samuel Liles may be adamant that machines were not affected, but the agency has not in fact opened up a single voting machine since November to check. Asked about the decision, a DHS official told TPM: “In a September 2016 Intelligence Assessment, DHS and our partners determined that there was no indication that adversaries were planning cyber activity that would change the outcome of the coming US election.” … Computer scientists have been critical of that decision. “They have performed computer forensics on no election equipment whatsoever,” said J. Alex Halderman, who testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee last week about the vulnerability of election systems. “That would be one of the most direct ways of establishing in the equipment whether it’s been penetrated by attackers. We have not taken every step we could.”
National: Trump’s voter-fraud commission wants to know voting history, party ID and address of every voter in the U.S. | The Washington Post
The chair of President Trump’s Election Integrity Commission has penned a letter to all 50 states requesting their full voter-roll data, including the name, address, date of birth, party affiliation, last four Social Security number digits and voting history back to 2006 of potentially every voter in the state. In the letter, a copy of which was made public by the Connecticut secretary of state, the commission head Kris Kobach said that “any documents that are submitted to the full Commission will also be made available to the public.” On Wednesday, the office of Vice President Pence released a statement saying “a letter will be sent today to the 50 states and District of Columbia on behalf of the Commission requesting publicly available data from state voter rolls and feedback on how to improve election integrity.”
A former British government intelligence official has said he was approached last summer by a veteran Republican operative to help verify hacked Hillary Clinton emails offered by a mysterious and most likely Russian source. The incident, recounted by Matt Tait, who was a information security specialist for GCHQ and now runs a private internet security consultancy in the UK, may cast new light on one of the pathways the Russians used to influence the 2016 presidential election in Donald Trump’s favour. Tait’s account, published on the Lawfare national security blog, demonstrates a willingness to collude with the Russians on the part of the Republican operative, Peter Smith, who had a long history of hunting down damaging material about the Clinton family on behalf of the GOP leadership. It also points towards possible collusion by Trump aides.
President Donald Trump fired off a tweet Saturday aimed at the growing number of secretaries of state resisting a broad request for data by his voter-fraud commission, including officials from deep red states whose support the controversy-laden White House can ill afford to lose. “Numerous states are refusing to give information to the very distinguished VOTER FRAUD PANEL,” Trump tweeted of officials from more than 20 states who so far have questioned the panel’s request. “What are they trying to hide?” Indiana, home of Vice President Mike Pence, and Mississippi, a state that voted heavily for the president, are among those states. Trump’s taunt may have been meant to counter a backlash that could effectively scuttle much of the work of Presidential Advisory Commission on Voter Integrity before it begins. Officials on the panel said they planned to compare the state records to databases of undocumented immigrants and legal foreigners in order to determine if large numbers of unqualified voters are participating in U.S. elections.
State officials from Virginia, California and Kentucky said Thursday that they will refuse a request for voter roll data from President Trump’s commission on election integrity. Earlier Thursday, it was reported that the commission sent letters to all 50 states asking for voters’ names, birthdays, the last four digits of their Social Security numbers and their voting history dating back to 2006. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) said in a statement that he has “no intention” of fulfilling the request, defending the fairness of his state’s elections. He also blasted the commission in his statement, saying it was based on the “false notion” of widespread voter fraud in the November presidential election. “At best this commission was set up as a pretext to validate Donald Trump’s alternative election facts, and at worst is a tool to commit large-scale voter suppression,” McAuliffe stated.
On Wednesday, all 50 states were sent letters from Kris Kobach — vice chair for the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity — requesting information on voter fraud, election security and copies of every state’s voter roll data. The letter asked state officials to deliver the data within two weeks, and says that all information turned over to the commission will be made public. The letter does not explain what the commission plans to do with voter roll data, which often includes the names, ages and addresses of registered voters. The commission also asked for information beyond what is typically contained in voter registration records, including Social Security numbers and military status, if the state election databases contain it. … A number of experts, as well as at least one state official, reacted with a mix of alarm and bafflement. Some saw political motivations behind the requests, while others said making such information public would create a national voter registration list, a move that could create new election problems.
Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) introduced an amendment to the appropriations bill on Thursday to fund the Election Assistance Commission (EAC). The EAC provides services to state elections officials, including playing a role in election cybersecurity. The EAC is currently slated to be entirely defunded by the end of 2018. “In order to prevent future attacks against our democratic process, we must harden our defenses,” Quigley said in remarks launching his amendment. “Eliminating the EAC, the federal government’s only independent direct line of communication to state and local election officials, would be dramatically out of step with the federal government’s work to improve election systems and provide states with the support they need to hold accurate and secure elections.”
House Democrats are creating an election security task force to study how the government can lock Russian hackers out of the 2018 elections, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Thursday. The task force will hold hearings, collect data on state-level election hacks, and interview election officials and cybersecurity experts. Ultimately, the group aims to turn its findings into legislation. “Unless we act, they will do this again,” Pelosi said. House Homeland Security ranking member Bennie Thompson of Mississippi will lead the task force with Rep. Robert Brady of Pennsylvania, the top Democrat on the House Administration Committee, which oversees federal elections.
National: Russian Hackers Reportedly Discussed Getting Hillary Clinton’s Emails To Michael Flynn | Buzzfeed
Russian hackers discussed during the 2016 presidential campaign if they could obtain emails deleted by Hillary Clinton and get them to Michael Flynn, the retired general who was then a member of the Trump campaign, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. The newspaper attributed the revelation to US officials with knowledge of intelligence about the hackers’ communications. That intelligence is being reviewed by US investigators who are examining if the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the election, the Journal reported. The hackers hoped to get the emails to Flynn via an intermediary, the Journal reported. Around the same time, a Republican with a history of opposition research against the Clintons was working to get the emails from hackers, including some with ties to the Russian government.
The Senate Intelligence Committee has asked election officials in 21 states to make public information about Russian efforts to hack their elections systems during the 2016 elections, the panel’s top Democrat said Wednesday. The request was made in a letter sent last week “to all relevant state election officials” from Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.), the panel’s chairman and vice chairman, respectively, Warner revealed in his prepared remarks before a hearing on global election interference. “I do not see how Americans are made safer when they do not know which state elections systems Russia tried to hack,” Warner said.
The United States will get hit again by Russian cyberattacks if the country doesn’t pay closer attention and work more closely with European allies who are also victims, international elections experts warned on Wednesday. In testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, experts described extensive Russian interference in European elections and encouraged more awareness among the American of how Russians are trying to undermine U.S. candidates and faith in government. One witness, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO, criticized both former President Barack Obama and current President Donald Trump for not doing more to publicize the problem and combat it.
Attempts to hack elections will continue in the future, the secretary of Homeland Security said Wednesday — so election officials better prepare. Secretary John Kelly was speaking about the difficult balance his agency must strike — on the one hand protecting the nation from cyber intruders while on the other, respecting state and local governments’ autonomy. Kelly said at an event at the Center for a New American Security that his agency will offer to help states and localities on an entirely “voluntary basis” — but strongly encouraged officials to get help from somewhere. “I would say that if they don’t want our help, and even if they do want our help, they’d be well advised to hire some very, very, very good hired cyber guns, if you will, to help protect, because this is the way of the future,” Kelly said.
The 2020 Census — a once-a-decade effort by the federal government to count every person in the U.S. — is still three years away, but recent developments at the Census Bureau have raised concerns about the accuracy of the upcoming count. The agency recently received $164 million less than what it requested from Congress in the 2017 fiscal year, despite a traditional jump in funding for critical preparation in the years leading up to the nationwide count. The Trump administration’s proposed 2018 budget doesn’t give it much more. And in May, Census Bureau Director John Thompson announced he would resign at the end of June, leaving a major gap in leadership at a critical time. Meanwhile, the U.S. Government Accountability Office has put the 2020 Census on its “High Risk List,” as it did the 2000 and 2010 Census, and cited the Bureau’s failure to implement strategies and technologies to cut Census costs, which hit a record $12.3 billion in 2010. “Over the past 3 years, we have made 30 recommendations to help the Bureau design and implement a more cost-effective census for 2020,” the GAO observed; “however, only 6 of them had been fully implemented as of January 2017.”
President Trump’s commission on voter fraud and suppression likely will hold its first meeting next month after a “painstakingly” slow vetting of its members, one of the panel’s co-chairmen said Tuesday. Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach said he expects the commission to meet in Washington sometime in the second half of July to begin its work. Some commission members have complained of not having heard anything about a timetable since being appointed weeks ago. “The wheels have been turning for several months now. It’s just the process of getting members through the clearance hurdles is painstakingly long,” Mr. Kobach told The Washington Times. “We have almost all of our commissioners through the approval process, but we still have a few more remaining.”
National: A top Trump ally admits Russia will try to strike again. Does Trump care? | The Washington Post
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports that former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a close Trump ally, is concerned that Russia could hack our next election. He told reporter Allison Kaplan Sommer in Tel Aviv earlier today that he’s “very worried” that there could be “cyber-interference” of a more serious nature than there was in 2016 — meaning interference that could alter vote totals and effect the election outcome. Giuliani’s admission is significant, and not just because it’s an admission — from someone so sympathetic to Trump — that the ongoing threat of Russian hacking is real and not “fake news.” Giuliani, who serves as the Chair of the Cybersecurity, Privacy and Crisis Management Practice at the law firm Greenberg Traurig, is also an informal advisor to Trump on cybersecurity issues.
What would it cost to protect the nation’s voting systems from attack? About $400 million would go a long way, say cybersecurity experts. It’s not a lot of money when it comes to national defense — the Pentagon spent more than that last year on military bands alone — but getting funds for election systems is always a struggle. At a Senate intelligence committee hearing last week about Russian hacking during last year’s election, Jeanette Manfra , the acting deputy under secretary for cybersecurity at the Department Homeland Security recommended that election officials have a paper-based audit process to identify anomalies after an election. While that’s the advice most cybersecurity experts give, right now more than a dozen states use electronic voting machines that have no paper backup. Replacing those machines would go a long way toward protecting one of the core functions of democracy, says Larry Norden of the Brennan Center for Justice in New York. “I don’t think that would cost a huge amount of money. I think it would probably cost between $200 million and $300 million to replace that equipment,” adding that $400 million is his top estimate.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta, on Tuesday appeared before the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, which has begun interviewing witnesses in its probe of how Russia may have influenced the 2016 election. Committee members declined to comment on the discussion to reporters as they left the panel’s secure hearing room. Podesta stopped and commented briefly. “They asked me to come forward to give to the best of my knowledge what I knew about that, and I was happy to cooperate with the committee in their investigation of Russian interference with the democratic process in the United States,” he said.
The email that would help Democrats lose the 2016 presidential election arrived on March 19, 2016, signed — seemingly harmlessly — “Best, the Gmail team.” The email was sent to John Podesta, the then-chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. But it wasn’t a benign message; it was actually a spear-phishing email authored by hackers with ties to Russia. “There was a Google alert that there was some compromise in the system,” Podesta told CNN of the email, which prompted Podesta to change his password “immediately” by clicking on a link. “It actually got managed by my assistant, who checked with our cybersecurity guy,” Podesta said. “And through a comedy of errors, I guess, he instructed her to go ahead and click on it and she did.”
As voters in many states learn more about the ongoing practice and effects of partisan gerrymandering, a high-profile lawsuit originating in Wisconsin may have profound implications for how much a political party can do to keep itself in power. The U.S. Supreme Court announced June 19 that it would hear an appeal in Gill v. Whitford, a challenge to the legislative districts Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled legislature approved in 2011. It’s always thorny to try and predict how the justices will rule on a given case based on their previous rulings and writings, and what they eventually end up asking in oral arguments. But it is helpful to focus in on the specific questions at issue, not just the greater policy implications.
National: Administration won’t release redacted intelligence report on Russian election meddling | Politico
The Trump administration is refusing to release a redacted version of a key report President Barack Obama received in January on alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, court filings show. Then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper made public an unclassified version of that report, but the Electronic Privacy Information Center brought a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit demanding a copy of the classified report given to Obama at the same time. EPIC said the unclassified version omitted “critical technical evidence” that could help the public assess U.S. intelligence agencies’ claims that Russia did make efforts to affect the outcome of the 2016 race.
Growing concerns about threats to U.S. election systems have put the heat on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its efforts to boost national cybersecurity. Homeland Security officials testified this week before the Senate Intelligence Committee that they have evidence that Russia targeted election-related systems in 21 states as part of its wider effort to influence the presidential election. Now, lawmakers concerned about future foreign interference in U.S. elections are pressuring the department to offer more help to states and provide more details about what happened in 2016. “I’m deeply concerned about the danger posed by future interference in our elections,” Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the vice chairman of the intelligence panel, said Wednesday. “We have elections in 2018, but in my home state of Virginia, we have statewide elections this year. So this needs a sense of urgency.”
This week, leaders from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) testified to Congress that the Russian government hacked into electronic systems connected with the 2016 election in at least 21 states. Though they acknowledged that some systems had been breached and even altered, they also said that hackers were unable to change the vote counts. While it is certainly reassuring to know that vote counts weren’t tampered with (it’s a message they’ve stressed in light of previous leaks, too,) there’s one problem with the DHS’s proclamation: the agency hasn’t actually conducted any audits to confirm this belief. … With all due respect to the DHS, the government didn’t expect their systems to be as vulnerable to hacking as it has already proven to be. If hackers were able to get into voter systems, how can we be so confident that that’s as far as they got without – you know – actually checking?
National: Russia’s still targeting U.S. elections, King warns, and experts say we’re not prepared | Portland Press Herald
For weeks, U.S. Sen. Angus King has been telling anyone who’ll listen that the biggest, most worrisome thing about Russian interference in the 2016 election isn’t getting enough attention and has nothing to do with President Trump. King has warned in congressional hearings, television appearances and interviews with reporters that Moscow tried and is still trying to compromise American voting systems – and that if nothing’s done it might very well change the results of an election. … While intelligence officials say there is no evidence that vote counts were changed last November, a leading expert on security threats to voting machines said this possibility cannot be excluded without a forensic audit of the results. Even voting and vote counting machines that are not connected to the internet can be and could have been compromised when they received software programming them to display or recognize this year’s ballots, said J. Alex Halderman, director of the University of Michigan Center for Computer Security and Society.