Three months before some U.S. states host primary elections, the Department of Homeland Security has begun offering security clearances to state officials to more easily share classified information as the threat of cyberattacks looms over next year’s polls. The federal government is “clear-eyed” that threats to election systems remain an ongoing concern after Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, according to Chris Krebs, the DHS senior official performing the duties of under secretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate. We’re offering security clearances initially to senior election officials, and we’re also exploring additional clearances to other state officials,” Krebs told a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee hearing on Wednesday. “These relationships are built and sustained on trust. Breaking that trust will have far-ranging consequences in our ability to collaboratively counter this growing threat.”
Almost three dozen state officials have begun the process of obtaining a clearance, according to a DHS official who asked not to be named. The official wouldn’t identify which states are receiving the clearances but said they are part of DHS’s efforts to share information with state officials who administer the nation’s elections.
After the U.S. intelligence community reached its conclusion on hacking in the 2016 election, the federal government in January designated election systems as “critical infrastructure,” a move that opened up federal assistance to election officers around the country.