DHS secretary: Russia’s election interference ‘attack on our democracy’

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. Photo: whitehouse.gov

July 15 (UPI) — Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kristjen Nielsen told state election officials Saturday the threat from Russia targeting U.S. elections should be taken seriously and the attacks are a “direct attack on our democracy.”

Speaking at the conference of the National Association of Secretaries of State in Philadelphia, Nielsen said the U.S. intelligence community does “consistently observe malicious cyber activity from various actors against U.S. election infrastructure,” according to prepared remarks released by the department.

Nielsen told the state officials, who are responsible for administering elections, there are no indications that Russia is targeting upcoming midterms on the same scale as the 2016 presidential elections, but warned the malicious activity is continuing.

“There is little doubt that adversaries and non-state actors continue to view elections as a target for cyber and influence operations,” she said.

Her remarks come a day after the Department of Justice announced new indictments against a dozen Russian intelligence officials accused in the 2016 hacking of the Democratic National Committee.

“Yesterday’s indictments against the Russian intelligence officers are a demonstration that we will not tolerate interference with our democratic processes and that there will be consequences for foreign meddling,” Nielsen said.

Nielsen said the intelligence community has also observed “persistent Russian efforts using social media, sympathetic spokespeople, and other fronts to sow discord and divisiveness amongst the American people — though not necessarily focused on specific politicians or political campaigns.”

On Saturday, Twitter suspended two accounts allegedly used by Russian officials to spread information hacked from Democrats’ computers and email accounts during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Twitter booted Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks in light of Friday’s indictments by special counsel Robert Mueller.

The accounts, which have been dormant for more than a year, were suspended “for being connected to a network of accounts previously suspended for operating in violation of our rules,” a Twitter spokesman told The San Diego Union-Tribune.


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