The Senate Intelligence Committee held a hearing this morning on Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election, and on what the government knows about Russian intentions to meddle in future contests. The Committee heard from three federal officials, two from the Department of Homeland Security, and one from the FBI. Together, those officials made clear that not only did Russians peddle in propaganda and fake news in an effort boost the fortunes of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in 2016; they also penetrated election systems via cyber warfare. But they also hinted at another important truth, which a forward looking one. Here it is: The very core of our democracy is at extraordinary risk if we are not prepared to prevent Russian interference in our next election, which is less than 18 months away.
… “The key lesson from 2016 is that hacking threats are real,” summed up J. Alex Halderman, a computer science professor at the University of Michigan and a cybersecurity expert. “There is no doubt that Russia has the technical ability to commit widescale attacks against our voting system, as do other hostile nations.”
This is not a partisan issue, or an occasion for finger-pointing. Urgent solutions are needed — and ensuring Congressional oversight of that could well be the most vital work on the Committee’s agenda in the coming months. This will require not only well-coordinated efforts by officials within DHS who are working with state and local elections officials, but will also demand that Republicans abandon President Trump’s efforts to discredit the entire Russia investigation as a “witch hunt.” Our democracy depends on it.