Homeland eyes special declaration to take charge of elections

Even before the FBI identified new cyber attacks on two separate state election boards, the Department of Homeland Security began considering declaring the election a “critical infrastructure,” giving it the same control over security it has over Wall Street and and the electric power grid.

The latest admissions of attacks could speed up that effort possibly including the upcoming presidential election, according to officials.

“We should carefully consider whether our election system, our election process, is critical infrastructure like the financial sector, like the power grid,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said.

“There’s a vital national interest in our election process, so I do think we need to consider whether it should be considered by my department and others critical infrastructure,” he said at media conference earlier this month hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

DHS has a vital security role in 16 areas of critical infrastructure and they provide a model for what the department and Johnson could have in mind for the election.

DHS describes it this way on their website: “There are 16 critical infrastructure sectors whose assets, systems, and networks, whether physical or virtual, are considered so vital to the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination thereof.”

A White House policy directive adds, “The federal government also has a responsibility to strengthen the security and resilience of its own critical infrastructure, for the continuity of national essential functions, and to organize itself to partner effectively with and add value to the security and resilience efforts of critical infrastructure owners and operators.”

At the time, Johnson did not mention specific security issues, but the FBI has since cited one hack and another attempt.

Johnson also said that the big issue at hand is that there isn’t a central election system since the states run elections. “There’s no one federal election system. There are some 9,000 jurisdictions involved in the election process,” Johnson said.

“There’s a national election for president, there are some 9,000 jurisdictions that participate, contribute to collecting votes, tallying votes and reporting votes,” he said.

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