The US government has set up a new process to alert targets of foreign election interference in an attempt to be more transparent and counter ongoing efforts by Russia and other adversaries to influence the American political process.
The FBI, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice and relevant intelligence agencies announced Friday that the government will notify relevant members of Congress, state and local officials, private sector and the public of foreign interference “where necessary to protect national security and the integrity of our elections,” beyond existing laws and policies.
Most intelligence concerning threats to election security is initially classified, making it difficult to quickly release to the public. When Russian intelligence conducted its election interference campaign in the leadup to the 2016 election, the FBI and DHS had difficulty conveying information about some cyber threats to county and state election officials who didn’t have security clearance.
“There really is a sense of urgency to operationalize this information as quickly as possible,” a senior intelligence official said on a call with reporters. “I recognize that some constituents are skeptical about how we can quickly turn around this information, but I think there is an agreed-upon sense of urgency related to the framework to be able to best share information with those affected by this as quickly as possible.”
President Donald Trump approved the new framework on October 31, the intelligence official said.
The US intelligence community and bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee are both firm in their assessment that Russia launched a multifaceted campaign to meddle in the 2016 election, largely in support of Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton. Trump has brushed off those reports, going so far as to embrace a conspiracy theory that Ukraine instead was somehow responsible.
The full framework is not being released to the public.
A one-page summary, jointly authored by DHS, FBI, the Department of Justice, and the Office of National Intelligence, stresses the idea that the US intelligence community has a comprehensive, method for notifying state and local election officials of election threats. “Partisan politics shall not play in role in the decision to provide notifications,” it says.
The framework introduces a process where if one agency wants to go above and beyond to notify someone of a potential threat, “beyond what is required under existing laws and policies, the decision will be informed by a group of experts from different Intelligence Community agencies,” the summary says.