2020 Election Security: U.S. Has New Plan for Notifying Americans of Interference
The framework comes as the federal government has faced criticism for the lack of information it has made public about efforts by foreign hackers to penetrate campaigns and election systems.
By Eric Tucker
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Friday released a new framework for notifying victims and the public of cyberattacks during the 2020 presidential election.
The procedures are designed to ensure consistency in how victims and the public are notified of election interference by foreign governments. The framework, which was approved by President Donald Trump, comes as the federal government has faced criticism for the lack of information it has made public about efforts by foreign hackers to penetrate campaigns and election systems.
It also comes as the government braces for foreign interference in next year's election similar to the hacking and foreign influence campaigns of the 2016 race.
The process underscores the difficulties the federal government has faced in balancing the public's right to know about national security threats against its own interests in not disclosing sensitive sources and methods, as well as desires by some victims to not be publicly identified.
For instance, members of Florida's congressional delegation have complained that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security would not publicly identify the two counties where Russian hackers gained access to voter databases before the 2016 election.
A senior intelligence official said Friday that the framework implements a coordinated process for making notifications and expands when such notifications can and should be made.
The framework, detailed in a one-page overview and described by officials to reporters, lists considerations for the government in making the notifications. It says that partisan politics will not factor into any decision to make notifications and that the Secret Service will be notified anytime a major presidential campaign is targeted.
Decisions about whether to provide notification "will take into account the need to protect sensitive sources and methods necessary to protect national security and to avoid interfering in investigations."
Notification decisions will consider whether providing notification will help deter foreign influence and protect the public, and will avoid amplifying foreign interference activity or re-victimizing the targets of such activity," the document states.
The document also says that in cases when a broad public notification is being considered, the director of national intelligence will consult with a group of officials to decide whether it should be made. And when an intelligence community member seeks to provide a notification beyond what existing laws require, representatives from the FBI, CIA and other agencies will be involved in that process.
Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Florida Democrat who has requested a briefing from federal authorities about election interference targeting Florida and has called for greater transparency, praised the announcement.
"I'm pleased the Trump administration has finally recognized how important public notification is to the integrity and credibility of our elections and established a framework for when and how notification should occur," Murphy said in a statement.
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