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Murphy, Waltz Renew Call for Increased Transparency in Russian Intrusion Into Florida Election Systems

Request for additional Florida delegation briefing follows release of Senate Intel report alluding to potential additional breaches into Florida election systems

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Washington, August 8, 2019 | comments

WASHINGTON — Today U.S. Reps. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) and Michael Waltz (R-Fla.), both former national security professionals at the Pentagon, requested a follow-up briefing for the entire Florida congressional delegation from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with Florida’s election systems. Last month, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) released a report that cast doubt on information recently provided by these federal agencies to members of Congress and the public regarding Russian attempts to breach into Florida election systems. The report strongly suggests Florida may have been the target of two additional “suspected compromises” of election systems from those disclosed during a classified briefing provided to the Florida congressional delegation requested by Murphy and Waltz in May 2019.

During that May briefing, federal officials confirmed the initial intrusion first disclosed in the Mueller report and informed the Florida delegation that Russia infiltrated a second county. However, federal officials did not authorize members of the delegation to disclose the names of those counties to the public. The names still have not been released.

“For Florida, the Senate report on election interference introduced far more questions than it answered. The public was left wondering whether our state was a larger target of Russian meddling than previously shared, and we were given no assurances that federal and state governments are doing all they can to prevent another, potentially far more devastating attack,” said Murphy. “This unwillingness by our federal agencies and county election officials to be forthcoming with this information will only undermine public confidence in the integrity of our election systems. We will not stop demanding clear answers into the extent of the these intrusions into Florida voter data, and calling for the public release of the names of the counties affected so voters can feel certain that their voting data is secure.”

“Our elections are one of the most critical pieces of our country’s democracy. Floridians understand the need to protect sources and methods but we need to balance that protection with confidence in our voting system,” said Waltz. “From members of Congress to those voters exercising their Constitutional rights at the ballot box, it’s important to our national security that we are aware of any threats posed to our elections system.”

In their letter, Murphy and Waltz also reiterated the need for increased transparency in previous and ongoing efforts by the Russian government to intrude into Florida election systems. Both members pointed to their bipartisan bill, H.R. 3529, the Achieving Lasting Electoral Reforms on Transparency and Security (ALERTS) Act, which would require notification to appropriate members of Congress, relevant state and local officials, and potentially affected voters when an election system is breached and voter information may have been compromised.

The full text of the letter can be found here and below.

The Honorable William P. Barr
Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20530

The Honorable Kevin K. McAleenan
Secretary (Acting)
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
245 Murray Lane, SW
Washington, DC 20528 

The Honorable Christopher Wray

Director
Federal Bureau of Investigation
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20535

Dear Attorney General Barr, Acting Secretary McAleenan, and Director Wray:

We write regarding the recent report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, entitled “Russian Active Measures Campaigns and Interference in the 2016 U.S. Election.” Given the contents of the report, we respectfully request an updated briefing for Florida’s congressional delegation on Russian cyber activities directed at our state’s election system. We also wish to express our view that the lack of transparency throughout this process highlights the importance of H.R. 3529, the Achieving Lasting Electoral Reforms on Transparency and Security (ALERTS) Act, bipartisan legislation we introduced to require notification—to appropriate members of Congress, relevant state and local officials, and potentially affected voters—when an election system is breached and voter information may have been compromised.

The March 2019 Mueller report concluded that Russian government-affiliated cyber actors targeted individuals and entities involved in the administration of the 2016 U.S. election, including in Florida. The Mueller report stated that, in November 2016, Russian actors sent spearphishing emails to over 120 email accounts used by Florida county officials responsible for administering the 2016 election. The Mueller report said “the FBI believes that this operation enabled [the Russian government] to gain access to the network of at least one Florida county.”

In light of these findings, we sent a letter to Attorney General Barr and FBI Director Wray requesting a briefing for the members of the Florida congressional delegation. That briefing was held on May 16, 2019. During the briefing, the FBI informed us—and authorized us to reveal—that Russia had gained access to the election-related computer networks of at least two Florida counties.

In July, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released the first volume of a report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. The Committee reached out to 21 states that DHS had identified as potential targets of Russian government interference.


Based on public information, the evidence strongly suggests that Florida is “State 2” in the Senate report, although we cannot be certain about that conclusion. If this is the case, then the Senate report’s heavily-redacted discussion of State 2 raises a host of troubling new questions. For example, the report indicates that, in 2018, the FBI formally advised the Department of Homeland Security that the FBI “suspected compromises” of the election infrastructure of two additional Florida counties, referred to as “Counties C and D” in the Senate report.

In light of this and other new information contained in the Senate report, we believe a follow-on briefing for the members of the Florida congressional delegation is warranted when the House returns to session in September. Our offices will contact you to coordinate this briefing.

We continue to believe the secrecy surrounding this critically-important issue is unhelpful, and underscores the importance of amending federal law to require notification—to appropriate members of Congress, relevant state and local officials, and potentially affected voters—when an election system is breached and there is a basis to believe the breach resulted in voter information being altered or otherwise affected. We have introduced bipartisan legislation to establish a reasonable notification standard, the ALERTS Act. We believe our bill strikes the right balance between being forthcoming to the voting public, protecting voter confidence, and holding state and local officials accountable for their efforts to secure our elections—and that it should be enacted into law.

We look forward to scheduling a briefing in September on information contained in the Select Committee on Intelligence report pertaining to Florida.


Sincerely,

Stephanie Murphy
Member of Congress


Michael Waltz
Member of Congress

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