Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says ‘Vladimir Putin himself’ directed the effort
Department of Homeland Security officials revealed in separate House and Senate hearings new details about Russia’s involvement in the cyber-attacks that targeted 21 states during the 2016 election. WSJ’s Tanya Rivero has four things to know. Photo: Getty
WASHINGTON—Russian government hackers targeted voting systems in nearly two dozen states last year, seeking vulnerabilities to exploit and aiming to undermine public faith in the integrity and legitimacy of U.S. democratic elections, current and former U.S. officials testified Wednesday.
One of the officials, former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, testified that the attempted intrusions could be traced specifically to Russian President Vladimir Putin. “In 2016, the Russian government, at the direction of Vladimir Putin himself, orchestrated cyberattacks on our nation for the purpose of influencing our election,” Mr. Johnson said. “That is a fact, plain and simple.”
The Russian government has denied the allegation.
In two separate and simultaneous hearings in front of the House and Senate intelligence committees about alleged Russian meddling in last year’s elections, four senior government officials responsible for cybersecurity, counterintelligence and national security publicly disclosed new details about the alleged Russian operations and the federal government’s response to the threats.
“As of right now, we have evidence of election-related systems in 21 states that were targeted,” Jeanette Manfra, the acting deputy undersecretary for cybersecurity and communications at DHS, told the Senate panel. She testified with DHS and Federal Bureau of Investigation officials on Wednesday morning.
Her admission was the first time a government official had publicly quantified the number of states targeted in the hacking. Officials said there was no evidence that systems involved in vote tallying or reporting were affected.
Ms. Manfra didn’t name the 21 states in question—citing the privacy rights of entities that contacted the DHS for help on cybersecurity-related issues. Only a few states—including Arizona and Illinois—have publicly acknowledged that their systems were targeted.
The hearings were held after the U.S. intelligence community in January determined that Moscow ran a campaign designed to help Donald Trump win the presidential election. The Russian campaign, according to U.S. intelligence officials, included cyberattacks on the email accounts of senior Democrats and a propaganda effort aimed at demonizing Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.