We’re at a pre-9/11 turning point in protecting our elections. We can’t make the same mistake again | Opinion
By John A. Tures
The briefing that President George W. Bush received from his security staff on Aug. 6, 2001 made it clear enough: “Bin-Ladin Determined to Strike in U.S.”
Two decades-plus later, we’re at that same dangerous juncture when it comes to our elections. America has received similar numerous warnings about our woeful electoral security, including numerous reports from numerous sources showing foreign sources have scanned, and even penetrated, our elections. The question is whether we’ll do the same thing we did in August of 2001, which was nothing, against a pretty intimidating threat.
In that pre-9/11 briefing, President George W. Bush was warned that that al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin-Ladin “wanted to retaliate in Washington” and sought to mount a terrorist strike in the United States and “a Bin-Ladin cell in New York was recruiting Muslim-American youth for attacks.”
There’s even mention that authorities were trying to corroborate “that Bin-Ladin wanted to hijack a US aircraft.” The FBI and CIA were also investigating hijackings and surveillance of federal buildings in New York.
“There was nothing actionable in this” then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said.
As a result, no additional security was placed at airports or planes, despite the specific mention of hijackings. Nothing was done for New York or Washington, DC, the only two places specifically mentioned in that report.
The U.S. Department of Transportation, the Federal Aviation Administration and other relevant government agencies weren’t warned. Rice testified that the Bush Administration had other priorities during that time, according to The Baltimore Sun.
Similarly, our government has treated an overwhelming amount of evidence that foreign countries have penetrated our elections with a similar indifference to the threat.
While many focused upon impeachment talk during the Mueller hearings, evidence our former FBI Director added to what has already been discovered about foreign attacks upon our electoral security needs 100 percent of our attention.
These include a successful hack by Russians of a Florida county election computer network in 2016, as well as the stealing of Florida related data by “Guccifer 2.0” (controlled by Russian military intelligence), etc.
A pair of bills went forward afterwards, providing more funds for electoral security and computer updates, along with improving cybersecurity, verifiable paper ballots, and provisions that voting machines in the U.S. will be made in the U.S. The second bill requires any candidate to report attempts by foreign agents to offer dirt on opponents.
We found out why Senator McConnell voted against them, as he received campaign contributions from the voting machine companies. Moreover, many of these companies use Windows 7, which is not only less secure, but may not even last until the 2020 election. That money from the election security bills would pay for the updates, and the paper ballots.
Those who block electoral security, keep our voting machines outdated, and stonewall investigations of foreign hackers are no different from those who allowed 9/11 to happen.
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia. Readers may email him at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter at @JTures2. His work appears frequently on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page.
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