A U.S. intelligence bill that recently passed committee in the Senate contains key provisions designed to defend the electoral process from Russian meddling and other foreign interference, as well as curtail any possible White House effort to form a joint cybersecurity unit with the Kremlin. Passed in the Senate Intelligence Committee by a 14-1 margin this past July and made public just days ago, the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal year 2018 explicitly forbids the U.S. government from using federal resources to form a cyber partnership with Russia, unless the U.S. Director of National Intelligence (DNI) first submits a report that congressional intelligence committee members can review 30 days in advance of such an agreement. This key clause is a blatant rebuke of President Donald Trump, who fleetingly announced a U.S.-Russian cyber unit in July before backing off the idea amidst backlash.
Under the terms of the bill, which is sponsored by Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), any report submitted by the DNI would need to explain the purpose of forming such a joint cyber unit, specify what cyber intelligence would be shared, communicate the value of such an alliance to national security, express any counterintelligence concerns arising from such an arrangement, and recommend steps to mitigate these concerns.
The proposed act also directs key executive branch officials to submit a series of reports, assessments and recommendations regarding election security in the recent past, present and future.
Specifically, the bill states that within 90 days of the legislation’s passage, the DNI must coordinate with other relevant officials and agencies to develop “a whole-of-government strategy for countering the threat of Russian cyberattacks and attempted cyberattacks against electoral systems and processes in the United States, including federal, state, and local election systems, voter registration databases, voting tabulation equipment, and equipment and processes for the secure transmission of election results.”