Last Friday the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) dropped a “bombshell” statement that sent a “thrill up the leg” (to quote Chris Matthews) of every CNN reporter across the country. The news from DHS implied that the election systems of 21 states around the country had been hacked, or at least were close to being hacked, which set off a new wave “Russian collusion” speculation in the U.S. news media (see: DHS Notifies 21 States Of Hacker Targeting; Election Officials Blame “Russian Government Cyber Actors”).
That said, according to California Secretary of State Alex Padilla who released a statement this morning in response to the DHS, the whole thing was just a bunch of “fake news.” Padilla noted that after requesting additional information from DHS on the “hacks” it quickly became clear that their “conclusions were wrong” and that “California’s elections infrastructure and websites were not hacked or breached by Russian cyber actors.”
“Last Friday, my office was notified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that Russian cyber actors ‘scanned’ California’s Internet-facing systems in 2016, including Secretary of State websites. Following our request for further information, it became clear that DHS’ conclusions were wrong.”
“DHS confirmed that Russian scanning activity had actually occurred on the California Department of Technology statewide network, not any Secretary of State website. Based on this additional information, California voters can further rest assured that the California Secretary of State elections infrastructure and websites were not hacked or breached by Russian cyber actors.”
“Our notification from DHS last Friday was not only a year late, it also turned out to be bad information. To make matters worse, the Associated Press similarly reported that DHS has reversed itself and ‘now says Russia didn’t target Wisconsin’s voter registration system,’ which is contrary to previous briefings.”
“The work of our intelligence agencies is critical in defending against cyber threats. I remain committed to a partnership with DHS and other intelligence agencies, however, elections officials and the American public expect and deserve timely and accurate information.”
Meanwhile, this comes after another stunning and embarrassing reversal from the DHS earlier this week in which they first blamed Russians for hacking the Wisconsin election systems, then reversed and said it wasn’t the Russians then reversed further and said there was actually no hack on the WI election system at all.
But in a stunning reversal – one which we doubt will put endless rumors of Russian cyberinterference to bed – the AP now reports that DHS has told Wisconsin that the Russian government was not involved in the cyber-targeting.
In an email to the state’s deputy elections administrator that was provided to reporters at the Wisconsin Elections Commission meeting on Tuesday, Homeland Security said that initial notice of Russian involvement was made in error. Also, as we noted at the time, the government did not originally assign blame to the Russians when news of the alleged “scanning” initially broke on Friday although most medias jumped at the opportunity to blame Putin.
Infuriated by the error, some state officials said that DHS should provide an expalanation for the errror, or at least issue an apology to state elections officials, who were understandbly unnerved by the news of Russian involvement.
Wisconsin’s chief elections administrator Michael Haas told AP that Homeland Security had assured the state that it had not been targeted – by Russians, or anybody else, for that matter.
“Wisconsin was not provided any information that indicated before the November election that Russian government actors were targeting election systems,” Haas said. He said one theory is that Homeland Security saw suspicious activity from IP addresses targeting state election systems in other states and assumed that was the intent in Wisconsin as well.
Others were apparently in shock: “It’s been a difficult process trying to piece all of this together,” said Wisconsin Elections Commission spokesman Reid Magney. “We’re trying to understand what happened.”
So, for folks, like WI’s Elections Commission spokesman Reid Magney, who are still “trying to understand what happened”…allow us to clarify: NOTHING HAPPENED. Hillary Clinton lost an election…other than that, not much happened that hasn’t happened in every election since the 1950’s.