Somehow lost in all the other news headlines over the past two days is a report from the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee that confirms Russian attacks on the U.S. elections systems during the 2016 election cycle. And in confirming what happened, the Committee also explained how the Russian cyber-attacks compromised the systems in 18 states in such a way that vote totals were manipulated in favor of Donald Trump.
This should be bigger news, but the report was downplayed because Republicans are in charge of the Committee (which is led by Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina). If Democrats were in charge we’d probably see headlines that announced hard evidence of Russia rigging the 2016 presidential election to help Trump win.
According to the Intelligence Committee Report“Summary of Initial Findings:”
“Cyber actors affiliated with the Russian government scanned state systems extensively throughout the 2016 election cycle. These cyber actors made attempts to access numerous state election systems, and in some cases accessed voter registration databases.”
“At least 18 states had election systems targeted by Russian-affiliated cyber actors in some fashion. Almost all of the states that were targeted observed vulnerability scanning directed at their Secretary of State websites or voter registration infrastructure.”
“In some states, the Russian-affiliated cyber actors conducted malicious access attempts on voting-related websites, Russian-affiliated cyber actors were able to gain access to restricted elements of election infrastructure. In these states, these cyber actors were in a position to, at a minimum, alter or delete voter registration data.”
So this means that the Committee has proven that “Russian-affiliated cyber actors” accessed voter registration date and “were in a position to, at a minimum, alter or delete voter registration data.”
What is not being publicized or even explained is the connection between voter registration data and vote totals. If Russian hackers messed with records of voter registration, that affects vote totals, because if you try to vote and your registration is missing, or invalid, you can’t vote.
The Russians were very very clever about what they did and how they did it to avoid detection. Nobody has found evidence that the hackers changed actual vote totals, because they didn’t have to. Changing registrations indirectly affects vote totals, and is much harder to detect.
All they had to do was tamper with and mess up the voter registration data for just enough registered Democrats to be turned away on election day that Trump could carry a precinct or district or state by a small margin. And that’s what he did, because he only won the electoral college because of 77,774 votes in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
The Committee Report does not say that the Russian hackers caused Trump to win the electoral college by this slim margin, because the way it was done, it is impossible to prove. But as someone once said, if a bank robber breaks into a vault, he’s not going to leave without taking the money.
The report even eludes to this when it says “It is possible that additional activity occurred and has not yet been uncovered.” This is in fact is very likely.
The U.S. government dropped the ball on the 2016 elections and allowed the systems to be invaded by “Russian-affiliated cyber actors.” This has been proven, and nobody is even attempting to say it didn’t happen.
The big open question is this: what has been done since 2016, and how can we be sure this won’t happen again in the future? The answer is that little has been done to protect the integrity of U.S. election systems, and we have no assurance that “Russian-affiliated cyber actors” won’t be right back at it in the 2018 election cycle.
Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, the committee vice chairman, said he is very concerned that the U.S. is “still not fully prepared” for the midterms. “That’s one reason why we, as a Committee, have decided that it is important to get out as much information as possible about the threat, so that governments at every level take it seriously and take the necessary steps to defend ourselves.”
Let’s hope that state governments do take this threat seriously, because if they don’t, we’ll continue to be forced to live with election results that have been determined by people in Moscow instead of by people in America.