The DHS is Prioritizing Election Security, According to Secretary Nielsen

Nielsen and Johnson agreed with the assessment of an intelligence official who appeared before the panel recently that Russia is actively targeting election systems across the U.S

"The fact that the President did not even bring up the topic of election security when he called Vladimir Putin to congratulate him on his victory in a pre-cooked election, I believe is extremely troubling", he said. However, lawmakers working on the Senate Intelligence Committee's Russian Federation investigation weren't daunted by the expected 4 to 8 inches of snow and continued to forge ahead with a hearing on election security. He did not comment on Russian election interference. Nielsen repeated the agency's findings a year ago that 21 states had experienced initial probing of their systems from Russian hackers in 2016 and that a small number of networks were compromised, but that there remains no evidence any votes were actually altered.

"Today I can say with confidence that we know whom to contact in every state to share threat information", Nielsen said.

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, also lambasted the Obama administration's response, saying it was not sufficient to warn the public "in any way, shape or form".

Top U.S. intelligence officials have said they've seen indications Russian agents are preparing a new round of election interference this year. The committee on Tuesday released draft recommendations to bolster election security.

The committee is recommending that states make sure voting machines have paper audit trails and aren't capable of being connected to the internet.

The committee's recommendations preview an election security report expected to be released in full in the coming weeks.

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The hearing comes as Congress is eyeing increased funding for election security in the new government spending bill. The bill also contains $307 million for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to go after Russian cyberattacks.

Early in the hearing, Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, said just 20 state officials out of 150 have received security clearance to view classified information about vulnerabilities in their systems during the 2018 midterm elections. Overall, experts say far too little has been done to shore up those vulnerabilities in 10,000 US voting jurisdictions that mostly run on obsolete and imperfectly secured technology.

Not having a verifiable way to audit election results in some states represents a "national security concern", the Trump administration's homeland security chief said on Wednesday, looking ahead to US midterm elections in November.

"Every one of Mr. Trump's appointees in law enforcement and national security acknowledge what an ongoing threat Russian Federation is", Warner said Tuesday.

Johnson said he and then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper issued on October 7, 2016, "a pretty blunt statement".

"I was expecting follow-up from a lot of journalists, and we never got that because everyone was focused on the campaign and that video, and that debate that Sunday", he added.

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