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Questions Linger after Hacking Revelation

May 17, 2019 - 6:45am
Rick Scott and Bill Nelson
Rick Scott and Bill Nelson

U.S. Sen. Rick Scott and other members of Florida’s congressional delegation on Thursday backed Gov. Ron DeSantis’ statement that election records in two unidentified counties were hacked by Russians during the 2016 campaign.

But questions continue to linger.

Scott, who was governor from 2011 to early this year, said in a statement that he --- like DeSantis --- is unable to reveal the counties. The inability to identify the counties has upset lawmakers from both parties.

“I urged the FBI to publicly release this information as soon as they are able,” Scott said. “The FBI said the information is classified due to the risk it poses to national security.”

The FBI has maintained there is no evidence that votes or voter information were altered in the hacking. But such assurances have drawn questions, with U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, an Orlando Democrat, saying ““we continue to review the matter.”

Another concern is that members of the congressional delegation were told that all Florida counties except Palm Beach have adopted technology and training to prevent similar intrusions in the future.

“I have been assured by our new supervisor that she is in the process of adopting these safeguards,” U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, a West Palm Beach Democrat, said in a statement. “We know that Russia and others continue to try to sabotage our democracy. We must do everything possible to resist.”

DeSantis removed Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher in January, citing a litany of problems with Bucher’s office in the 2018 elections.

The governor was advised last Friday during a meeting at the FBI office in Tallahassee about an “intrusion” into the two counties, but that there was no “manipulation” of voting results, he announced Tuesday.

DeSantis said he also was required to sign a nondisclosure agreement which precludes him from identifying the counties. That drew criticism from Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo, who issued a statement saying that signing the agreement “is a violation of the public’s trust. The people of Florida have a right to know what happened.”

The meeting last week at the FBI office did not appear on the governor’s official schedule. It followed last month’s release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report that said a Russian intelligence agency gained access to at least one Florida county-government computer network in 2016.

Other people who attended the meeting with DeSantis were Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee, DeSantis’ chief of staff, Shane Strum, and officials with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

After a congressional delegation meeting Thursday, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Republican from Sarasota, called the revelations “disturbing.”

“Vladimir Putin is not our friend,” Buchanan said in a statement. “He will keep doing this until we take swift and firm action to safeguard our system. His goal is to disrupt our electoral system and undermine our democracy. U.S. intelligence agencies are the best in the world and need our support to crack down on Russia and anyone else who threatens us.”

Election security became an issue during the 2018 campaign as Scott ran against --- and ultimately defeated --- then-U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. During the campaign, Nelson told reporters that “Russians are in Florida’s election records,” but he refused to elaborate.

Scott repeatedly criticized Nelson’s comment, demanding that the Democrat reveal how he received the information or admit it wasn’t true. At the time, Nelson was the ranking member of the U.S. Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Cybersecurity.

Nelson told reporters that local election officials could get help to secure their databases and records from Russian cyber-hacking, noting the Russians had “penetrated” some voter-registration systems.

On Thursday, Scott maintained his position, saying in the statement that “the FBI told me there is certainly no evidence to support the claim that the Russians still had access to Florida’s election systems at the time of the 2018 election. I want to be clear: the FBI verified that there was no evidence of a breach of Florida’s election records at the time voting occurred in 2018. The FBI could not provide any evidence to support the claims about security during the 2018 election made by then-Senator Nelson, which confirms the conclusion of both the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security at the time.”

But U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, both Democrats, issued a joint statement Thursday that criticized the FBI for a “lack of transparency” and expressed disappointment in Scott, who “chose to exploit and trivialize this now-documented assault on our state for political gain last year, despite the prudent and guarded warnings Sen. Nelson made at the time.”


28CFR§ 600.8(c) "Closing documentation. At the conclusion of the Special Counsel's work, he or she shall provide the Attorney General with a confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions reached by the Special Counsel." If Mueller had followed regulations, none of this controversy. Contrary to beliefs of Clinton, Gillum, Nelson, Abrams, and Democrats, the GRU did not affect the election or enable Trump's win, and everybody should be forced to say that out loud. No votes were prevented nor changed. Mueller's report provides no evidence to support successful "hacks" to that end. Computer systems are under attack by spear-phishing constantly--check your Spam folder. The report appears to be based on an NSA intercept illegally revealed by Reality Winner concerning spearphishing of Gmail impersonating VR systems email, and the FBI has not added any evidence beyond that or show they investigated anything except to raise unsupportable voter suspicions. So now we are in a box, they try to force us to trust them, expanded federal powers to protect us. DHS officials before the 2016 election tried to get state election officials to agree to federalize elections but couldn't win support; DHS later put out a notice Russians did not interfere with results. So why did Mueller include this false distraction in the report? They knew they would never have to prove any facts in court because Russians wouldn't be extradited. One can suppose it was to smear somebody by implying that Russian GRU really did after all throw the election for Trump. If they didn't want to imply that, they should have remained silent.

Reality Winner went to jail for leaking the NSA report to the Intercept that started this mess. It's reasonable to protect counter-intelligence "sources and methods." Revealing "victims" achieves nothing but tells hackers the results of their work. But now DHS, FBI, and NSA are going to require security clearances for Supervisors of Elections, elected officials in all but Miami-Dade, in order to keep secret the firewall rules for the "Albert" boxes all but Volusia have installed per DHS. Even the Governor doesn't have such clearance and had to sign the non-disclosure. I don't believe this secrecy clearance requirement promotes either security or public faith in elections. Better to admit the Intercept report shows it was Gmail not VRsystems that was spear-phished and require two-factor authentication to prevent spear-phishing. Without such 2-factor keys, computer systems are subject to ransomware. DHS already tests and certifies VRsystems and no need to further federalize local elections and require security clearances. Current countersecurity did the job.

Registered voter information in Florida is public. Anyone can get it for a few dollars on CDs directly from the state. There are also several web sites that make it available for free. It contains name, address, party preference and phone and email if those were supplied. Hacking to steal this information is not the issue. Hacking to change this information would be a problem as it would disrupt the voting process. Florida also uses paper ballots that are hand marked by the voter. These are read at the voting location and saved. In the last election these paper ballots for the whole state were recounted on different readers for a recount. As far as I know this process doesn't involve the Internet and in itself is not easily hackable. Transmitting the count results over the Internet may be hackable but there has been no evidence of that.

SURPRISE, SURPRISE,... The "Rocket-ride-along-monkey- speaks" (and for no exhorbitant campaign fund remuneration..)

So, Bill Nelson gets the last laugh - and low-life Scott once again makes a total fool of himself with his criticism of Nelson for mentioning that a least one Florida county was hacked by Russians in the 2016 election! Comrade Scott and Comrade Trump (or 'Tramp' in Russian) make a good pair!

Ha ha, if Bill Nelson getting the "last laugh" in the unemployment line is what you desire, then enjoy the moment. I know I am.

Well whatever happened I'm glad Nelson showed up for something.

Our current President has done more to sabotage our democracy and corrupt our citizens morals than anything I have witnessed in my 67 years living in this country.

Amen! And Shouldabenafelon Scott did the same thing to democracy and morals in Florida while he was governor!

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