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BACKGROUND PRESS CALL BY SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS ON THE PRESIDENT'S VISIT TO THE G20 SUMMIT AND TO THE REPUBLIC OF KOREA
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 24, 2019
BACKGROUND PRESS CALL
BY SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS
ON ELECTION SECURITY EFFORTS
2:04 P.M. EDT
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you so much everyone for joining today's call with an update on the whole-of-government effort to support state, local, territorial, and tribal partners -- the owners of election security -- to ensure the security and resilience of the U.S. electoral process.
My name is Lauren Ehrsam, and I'm the White House National Security Council Office for Strategic Communications, Director for Strategic Communications.
This call will be on background to senior administration officials. I will note their specific attributions as we go. We will also mention their names on this call for your knowledge, but that is not for reporting purposes.
While we do not expect to make much news on this call today, all information is embargoed until the end of the call. By staying on this call, you are agreeing to these terms. We will take a few questions at the end of the call; however, we will not have follow-up today.
Joining us for the call, we will have the following names. And I'll get you attributions before each of their names, as well as attribution before they speak.
The agencies and departments on this call are the ones carrying the water for these efforts. At the end of this call, we will list contact information for each agency and department on the call so that you can contact them with specific questions to the roles that they play and the efforts that they have as it relates to election security.
You can also always email the NSC press office for these contacts at DL.Press@nsc.eop.gov. I am, of course, reachable at Lauren@nsc.eop.gov.
With that, I'm going to turn it over to [senior administration official] to give an overview of the coordinating efforts led by the National Security Council. This will be on background to a senior administration official.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Good afternoon, and thank you for your time today. As we pull together the unprecedented coordination across the federal government to combat the potential influence and interference in the 2018 midterm elections, we also recognize that the 2020 elections would continue to have an evolving risk environment that would require us to double down on our effort and be even stronger than we had been for our 2018 efforts.
With that in mind, we work across the federal government to pull together all of the expertise -- from law enforcement to intelligence, domestic security and defense -- to look at those two key problems of potential interference and potential influence on the 2020 election, and wanted to make sure that we got a very good head start on those and that we coordinated these efforts as best we could.
So what you will hear today from our law enforcement, intelligence, domestic security, and defense officials will be a comprehensive set of actions that represent the start of what we are doing to combat threats to the 2020 campaigns and the 2020 election cycle.
It also represents how the administration is committed to combatting these threats from all sources and to supporting states and localities, and their elected administrators, as they recapitalize and buy new equipment; as they implement new security protocols for their election systems not just for casting votes, but for the entire landscape and system of systems necessary to execute elections; from registering voters all the way through to certifying and communicating results after the vote has occurred, and even risk limiting audits after that.
As we have done before, we continue to look for potential lessons learned, not just after an election happens, but at every step along the way, with every single engagement we do, with states and localities, with the private sector, and with our federal partners here.
And I think (inaudible) today that we've actually learned a lot as we've pulled this together in the last couple of years. We continue to learn, we continue to identify ways to do better, and, most of all, we continue to be responsive to the needs of those election administrators and really provide them good, solid guidance but not go any further than we would need to in respecting our system of federalism.
So with that, we've capitalized on some longstanding relationships and longstanding efforts of the federal government to work with states and localities in support of elections. We've pulled in some innovative use of existing authorities across the federal government and pulled into a comprehensive effort that you'll hear more about today.
So with that, let me go ahead and turn it over to the Department of Justice and they can tell you about their effort.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you. And good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us today.
Election security has been for a long time, and remains today, a priority for the Department of Justice. We have long been working with state and local officials for decades to respond to investigate and prosecute ballot fraud, which is a term we use to describe fraud in the process by which voters are registered, where votes are cast or tabulated.
Every U.S. Attorney's Office across the country has a designated District Election Officer who is an AUSA trained to work with state and local officials, as appropriate, to investigate potential ballot fraud and related crime.
And every office also has a national security cyber specialist, who is a prosecutor with a security clearance who is also trained to investigate and prosecute computer crime. And the FBI field offices around the country have (inaudible) counterparts, and their representatives will discuss them with you in a moment.
These nationwide networks of officials are connected to us at main Justice and FBI headquarters for resources, training, guidance, and support in responding to incidents.
Our principal role at the Department, when it comes to election security, is the investigation and prosecution of federal crimes, like computer hacking. But, of course, to the best of our ability, we’re going to try to prevent crimes from occurring in the first place or disrupt them in progress by sharing information that enables people and local officials to protect themselves.
Reflecting the priority of these issues, chapter one of the Attorney General’s Cyber-Digital Task Force Report last summer analyzed the types of foreign influence operations that we’ve identified and laid out a framework to guide our responses.
I recommend reviewing that chapter for more information on our perspective because it lays out the different categories of malign foreign influence activity that could target elections, ranging from computer hacking of election infrastructure, which is our highest priority at the Department, and covert efforts to assist or undermine a campaign, all the way over to covert, socially divisive messaging campaigns and state-sponsored media.
It also -- the report, that is -- sets out a policy guiding how we’ll use the information gathered during our investigation of malign foreign influence, including the factors that will guide any decision we make to publicize a foreign influence operation.
Those factors bear emphasis here because the decision about whether to publicly disclose a foreign influence operation may not be a straightforward one. The ultimate question is going to be whether the federal or national interests in doing so -- publicly disclosing it -- outweigh any counter veiling consideration. And disclosing a foreign influence operation might do more harm than good because it might draw more attention to an operation that would otherwise go unnoticed.
We also need to protect sensitive sources and methods, we need to encourage cooperation by the (inaudible) victim, and we need to avoid even the appearance of partisanship.
Since 2016, the Department has taken a number of steps to combat malign foreign influence and support (inaudible) elections. And they include establishing the Foreign Influence Taskforce at FBI, increasing information-sharing with social media companies; improving enforcement of the Foreign Agents Registration Act; and charging a number of cases that have exposed foreign influence efforts, supported financial sanctions on individuals and entities, and held responsible parties accountable.
And so we enter the 2020 election cycle attentive to the threat, organized in our approach, and prepared to do our part in the whole-of-society efforts to uphold the integrity of our democratic process.
I’ll turn it over to Lauren.
MS. EHRSAM: Thank you so much. And with that, I’m going to turn it over to [senior intelligence official]. This is on background to a senior intelligence official.
SENIOR INTELLIGENCE OFFICIAL: Thank you, Lauren. And thank you to everyone on the call this afternoon. Today, I just want to cover a bit about the intelligence community’s posture, and then share with you the wavetops of the threats that we’re tracking, as it relates to 2020.
As both my colleagues from the Department of Justice as well as the NSC have covered, we’re focused on both infrastructure security as well as foreign influence operations. And it’s the responsibility of the intelligence community to bring the strengths and expertise and scope of the sources that we use in the intelligence community to bear against this critical problem.
We use that information, one, as my colleague mentioned, to provide potential warnings across the interagency as to where threats are coming from; to downgrade information to share most appropriately with our state and local election officials so they can best utilize that to defend both their networks and their broader responsibilities on elections; and then also to enable policy discussions as it relates to, for example, the executive order and whether or not we will execute additional sanctions against foreign parties that do interfere with elections.
From our perspective, covering infrastructure, we do believe that the 2020 elections are a potential target for state and non-state cyber actors, and we continue to observe unknown actors' attempts at suspicious and malicious activities against Internet-connected infrastructure periodically. And my colleagues from DHS and the FBI can cover that in greater detail.
We currently, however, from intelligence sources, have no indication that any foreign adversary has disrupted or corrupted elements of the election infrastructure, such as voting machines and/or vote tally systems that are preparing for the 2020 general election.
As my colleague covered, foreign influence operations remain a considerable area of concern for us as well, and we are tracking efforts from several countries to influence the U.S. elections -- or influence the U.S. political environment in a way that could affect results.
As an example, I think you're well familiar with Russia's continuous use of social media and Russian-controlled or influenced English-language media, false flag operations, or sympathetic spokespersons, or other tools to inflame positions on both ends of issues. Russia's goal is to pit Americans against each other because they believe, at this juncture, a divided America is consistent with their strategic interests.
China, on the other hand, funds several English-language media outlets to influence perceptions of Beijing and influence of Chinese-language print and broadcast media in the U.S. to influence the U.S. political environment to promote their interests and policy preferences on various issues, including trade relations.
And, lastly, of course, no surprise to you: Iran is increasing their use of social media to promote strategic goals and perspectives to the American public. Its influence campaigns have included denigrating U.S. decisions to leave JCPOA, downplaying the effectiveness of sanctions, and promoting pro-Iranian interests.
In addition, the IC supports and brings this information to bear against all of the programs that you'll hear discussed by DHS NSCI this afternoon.
And that concludes our comments, and I will turn it over to my colleague from DHS CISA.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you, Lauren. And thank you to all of you for being on the phone. And thank you to my colleagues for their prior comments. At DHS and CISA, our focus has been and remains working to protect our 2020 elections through three primary channels.
The first is our continued and ongoing work to protect the election infrastructure by partnering with our state and local officials who own and operate those systems. Currently, we are working with all 50 states and more than 1,700 jurisdictions to share information and to help manage risks and threats to the election infrastructure.
In addition, we have extended our support and engagement to campaign and party infrastructure. Throughout 2018, we worked with both major political parties to help provide information and support and services, and we're expanding that reach now through outreach to the presidential campaigns.
Recently, DHS, ODNI, the FBI, and DOJ held a meeting with all presidential campaigns to provide a background on the threat and risk, as well as the support and service available to them from DHS. All of these services, as with state and local officials, are free and widely available to the political parties.
In addition, we're focused on increasing our information-sharing and support across the board through our intelligence-sharing partners. As my colleague from ODNI just mentioned, we're engaged and continue to engage in understanding -- broadening our understanding to the threats targeting election infrastructure, as well as campaigns and disinformation.
We're also engaged with the private sector, including all major social media companies, and sharing information and working to understand the scope and nature of disinformation attempts across the board, as well as academia and other private sector or government-based entities, to share information.
Finally, I want to speak to the priorities that we have moving forward for Protect 2020, specific to election infrastructure. As I mentioned, we're working with all 50 states and over 1,700 jurisdictions, and our priority this year is to broaden that reach to the county election officials working with the state election officials.
So there are over 8,800 jurisdictions in the United States that run elections, and working with the states, we'd like to find a way to reach as many of those as possible with not just our support and services, but signing up for things like the Election Infrastructure Information-Sharing and Analysis Center so that they can have, at the tip of their fingers, information regarding threats and risks to their systems that they own and operate.
Also, we're prioritizing a better understanding of risk to these systems by working directly with the private sector and the states and counties to understand how they view risk, how their systems are configured and set up, and to help them better manage the risk to those systems.
And, finally, our last priority is the increase of information-sharing of these state and local officials, as well as the political parties. Working with both the intelligence community as well as the private sector security firms, we're looking at ways to ensure that state and local officials, the private sector, and political parties have access to timely and actionable information to help them manage risk to their systems as well as understand the threat as we head into 2020.
We do this in a variety of ways, including using the Information-Sharing and Analysis Center I previously mentioned, providing classified briefings, as well as pushing out private sector analysis through our partners in the security firms.
So, with that, I'll hand it back to Lauren, and I look forward to your questions. Thank you.
MS. EHRSAM: Thanks so much. Next up, we'll have [senior law enforcement officials] from FBI, on background to senior law enforcement officials.
SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIAL: Thank you, Lauren. And thank you for everyone being on the phone call today.
So the FBI is laser-focused on the issue of foreign influence and election security, so I really appreciate you giving us the time so we can explain how we frame this issue and how we're tackling it from an FBI perspective.
The FBI and our partners around the table mounted an extensive effort to protect the midterm election. And, safe to say, we haven't relaxed our efforts. We are certainly focused on the job ahead, which obviously is protecting the 2020 presidential election.
The FBI's effort in this space is led by our Foreign Influence Task Force, or the FITF, which is focused on identifying and countering malign foreign influence operations targeting the United States.
The Task Force, which was first established by Director Wray in the fall of 2017, was originally primarily focused on Russia. We've since expanded our scope to look at any nation-state actors involved in foreign influence, including China, Iran, and North Korea, among others.
The FITF is comprised of special agents, intelligence analysts, and professional support staff from across all of our major operational divisions, and is housed within the FBI's counterintelligence division.
Our focus here today is on protecting the 2020 elections, but it's important to note that foreign influence operations are continuous and not only conducted around election time. Therefore, the FITF's effort in this space is continuous as well.
So when you look at our efforts to fight foreign influence, it primarily falls into three areas:
First and foremost, it's certainly our investigations and operations. In concert with our colleagues over at DOJ, we work with our FBI field offices around the country to investigate foreign influence operations and prioritize those operations for this election.
We also look at information and intelligence-sharing. We work closely with other intelligence agencies, state and local law enforcement partners, and election officials to detect, disrupt, and deter our adversaries. We're also working closely with our international partners who are facing the threat of foreign influence as well. And with these partners, we share intelligence and strategies so that we can each better protect our country.
And lastly, it's the private sector engagement, which you've heard several of our colleagues mention as well. It includes a great deal of importance on sharing information, especially threat indicators with U.S. companies, especially social media companies, tech companies, and election service providers to know their platform (inaudible) and can take actions to protect them.
As we move forward, we'll continue to work with our colleagues across the communities to ensure we are messaging the threat in a unified and thoughtful manner. Just last month, the FBI, DHS, and ODNI provided threat briefings for the 2020 presidential campaign on the threat of foreign influence and how to guard against it.
We talked about the FBI's Protected Voices initiative, which provides information on how political campaigns can fend off efforts by foreign agents, criminals, or anyone else who tries to (inaudible) technology infrastructure.
We've also produced a series of short videos on good cyber practices. The videos can be found on our public website, and the information should be helpful to the general public as well.
I know it sounds simple, but it's really crucial for campaigns to have good cyber habits to reduce their vulnerability to intrusions.
As the lead investigative agency when it comes to malicious cyber activity against election infrastructure and foreign influence operations, we know we have a lot of important work to do regarding the foreign influence threat.
And naturally, we'll continue to do the traditional work we've been doing for a long time as it relates to elections. This work includes investigating voter and ballot fraud, civil rights violations, voter suppression issues, and campaign finance violations.
Again, I just want to thank you for your time as we discuss our efforts against the serious and pervasive threats.
MS. EHRSAM: Thank you so much. Next up, from DOD, we will have [senior administration official]. This is on background to a senior administration official.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Hey. Thank you for being on the call on really such an important topic. Appreciate the time.
So, from the Department of Defense perspective, we have several roles and responsibilities that primarily, when needed, the DOD -- the Department of Defense -- provides really specialized critical support to our other U.S. government partners. Primarily, that's with DHS, FBI, and the intelligence community that you've just heard described. And we do that, really, through information-sharing, (inaudible) compromise and as needed.
Specifically, DOD supports DHS and its responsibility to coordinate the overall federal effort to promote security and the resiliency of the nation's critical infrastructure, which includes elections infrastructure in this particular case. Likewise, DOD supports FBI in countering adversary efforts to influence our election.
What's unique from a Department of Defense perspective is, when you look at our strategy and some of the new roles and responsibilities that we've adopted to really focus on external threats, the Department seeks the preempt the (inaudible) of (inaudible) malicious cyber activity targeting national critical infrastructure, which includes the elections in particular, (inaudible) by defending (inaudible) to stop threats really before they reach the homeland.
And we see election security really as an enduring mission. I think if you had asked the Department a couple years ago, that would not have been on the list of things that we would have (inaudible). Based on our experience in the midterm elections and really going forward for the foreseeable future, we see that as an enduring mission for the Department.
And so, alongside our U.S. government partners, we're ready to support and look forward to your comments and questions.
MS. EHRSAM: Thank you so much. With that, we will go ahead and take a few questions. As a reminder, this will be attributable, on background, to each of their respective attributions.
With that, we'll go ahead -- and there will not be follow-up questions today. With that, I'll go ahead and turn it back to the operator who can give you directions on how to join the queue for questions.
Q As you know, the previous administration decided not to give specific warnings to specific counties that were the victims of cyberattacks. What’s the policy on that now? And who’s responsible for giving that notice?
MS. EHRSAM: Really quickly, would you mind stating your name and which outlet you’re from?
Q I’m sorry. The operator was talking to me when you said that. It’s Pete Williams from NBC News. Pardon me.
MS. EHRSAM: Thanks so much, Pete.
SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIAL: So there are two issues at play when we make determinations at the U.S. government and as law enforcement on identifying victims of malicious cyber activity. One consideration is whether the information is classified. And, as you may be aware, the intelligence community has a rigorous process for determining whether and when information can be taken out of the classified channels.
The reason that may be the case is that, for the Department of Justice and the FBI, we receive information about cyber intrusions from a variety of means, including ongoing contact with victims, investigations of threat actors from other members of the intelligence community, and from foreign partners. So depending on the source of that information, it may carry special handling and sharing restrictions.
The other aspect to consider is that victims who work with the FBI do so because they trust that we’ll protect and handle their information appropriately. For example, the majority of technical information that we were able to give election officials during the 2016 timeframe was initiated from this type of trusted outreach.
The overall goal to keep in mind as we identify and work with victims is that the victim notification and identification process is intended to mitigate ongoing and future intrusions at the targeted entities. So the victim that receives the notification is whom we have (inaudible) individual organization or corporation that is best positioned, as the owner or operator of the computer that was intruded upon, to mitigate the compromise.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Just to make sure it’s clear, I think your question was who will notify counties or states and when that will happen. And that’s a slightly different question from when he might say something publicly identifying a state or a county.
And so I think my colleague began her answer with the complexities of why we might not say something publicly. We’re obviously going to work as hard as we can and as fast as we can, as I suggested in my remarks, to let any hacking victim know what they can -- at least the most we can let them know to help them protect themselves, consistent with countervailing considerations, like (inaudible).
So I think there was a little bit of a premise buried in your question about us not telling someone something, and I want to push back gently on that, but we might have to follow up at another time.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thank you, Lauren. And, Pete, thank you for your question. As part of our work that we’ve done with what’s called our “Government Coordinating Council,” which is an advisory council made up of state and local election officials, we’ve actually established communications protocols for exactly this purpose: so that it’s understood how and when DHS will share information with state and local officials, how they will do incident response -- so how DHS will respond to an incident, work with the victim. We have the same process in place as the FBI -- that we work with the victim and protect the anonymity of the victim.
But what we do, as part of this, is collect information from the incident response that we then share in an anonymized fashion broadly with the entire community. And so our commitment is always to take whatever information we can, anonymize it as part of incident response, and then share it broadly across the election community so they can have the benefit of understanding what steps they can take to prevent a similar type of incident and manage risks to their systems.
Q Michael Wilner, with McClatchy. And thanks again for doing this call. One of you mentioned that you’re tracking several countries’ efforts to influence 2020, quote, “in a way that could affect results.” And I’m wondering how you -- what kind of analysis goes into that statement. How do you measure efforts to influence that could affect results?
SENIOR INTELLIGENCE OFFICIAL: So to clarify my comments is that -- as you understand, of course, elections are an exercise of a political activity or political process. And so we see our adversaries capitalizing, in many ways, on existing political factors within the United States that either, A, will just sow discord to the point where we are not as effective as a country or a decision-making government, as much as we would like. Or, two, actually might drive one particular political outcome over another. And so, to your point, it’s not necessarily affecting a tally, a vote, but might influence the voting population towards one outcome or another.
I do think your question is a good one in terms of how do we best assess that issue, and it gets back to my colleagues comments for the FBI on the cyber side as well the foreign influence side in terms of how can you actually measure the impact and effect of something that is so broadly distributed through social media. I think that’s something that's not entirely the intelligence community's responsibility. And we have actually seen some progress in the private sector, particularly in academia, that examines in a much broader sense how these social issues are (inaudible) or exacerbated by foreign intelligence services.
Q Hi, this is Eric Geller from Politico. One of the things that the President has said, actually repeatedly, on this topic is that everybody should be using paper ballots and that that’s the most secure way to run an election. And this is backed up by pretty much every independent expert.
Why hasn’t the administration then come out and put some force behind the President's words and say, "We support a requirement to use paper," even if some counties may feel like it's less convenient, because it is, in fact, as pretty much every expert says, undoubtedly more secure?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yeah, Eric. Thanks for the question. As you know, starting with Secretary Nielsen and throughout, auditability and the need to have auditable systems -- that auditable record, by which, if need be, we can go back and verify or validate the results of the election -- is something that we've been stressing. Secretary Nielsen referred to it as a matter of national security. And we've continued with Director Krebs to stress and push the importance of auditability in that regard.
So I think that's been consistent across the board with DHS as we've gone out and talked with state and local officials about the importance of that auditable record and that need to have good, consistent audits after the election.
Q Yes, its David Sanger from the New York Times. I'd like to ask -- go back to, I believe, it was the Justice Department briefer who was discussing the question of whether or not you would make public evidence of influence operations, and say that, at some moments -- because you didn’t want to draw attention to it, or because it was classified, or you didn’t want to expose sources and methods -- you may choose not to.
I realize this is a vexing problem because you're sort of in a tough spot either way. But if you withhold evidence of this, and then of course it becomes an issue -- later on, somebody discovers it; it's made public by a private group, as happened in the 2016 election -- the government looks like it's behind.
So can you talk a little more about the factors that would go into this and whether there would be a presumption of making it public?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Hi, David. The most full treatment of this is in the appendix to chapter one of the Cyber-Digital Task Force Report, which lays out the different factors. I think it speaks to exactly what you're describing.
We are, you know, cognizant of the benefits of visibility, and that’s why we've charged -- part of the reason why we've charged some of the cases we have charged, is that there's a benefit to illuminating the efforts of a foreign adversary. But it doesn’t necessarily make sense to say everything we know, when we know it, because it could compromise our ability to collect and thereby protect our systems, or you might end up putting more wind in the sails of a foreign influence operation that might not otherwise be noted.
So you are right that there are hard choices to be made, and that’s why the Justice Department's policy ultimately comes down to a fairly broad question, which is: Is there a federal or national interest in being public? And that requires us to look at all these different factors, probably as an interagency in many cases, and make the best decision we can make. I don’t think there is a simple hard and fast rule.
SENIOR INTELLIGENCE OFFICIAL: I think, as my colleague mentioned, we have practices in place that handle the cyber aspect of this, from the foreign influence side of the house, which you’ve heard us talk about as well. (Inaudible) recognize and I appreciate your empathy how vexing of a problem this is.
I think two aspects that my colleague and I have worked on together is, one, we recognize that much of the foreign influence issues are wading into a space that Americans are already participating -- into constitutionally protected speech. And so, from an intelligence perspective -- and you heard my colleagues from DOD and FBI already mention this -- our goal is to actually stop that foreign (inaudible) before it happens or as it's happening.
So it’s less about highlighting for the public that there might a problem. We actually want to stop it from happening, whether we do that through cyber channels or diplomatic channels or other operations, to actually remove the foreign intelligence influence from the (inaudible) political landscape.
So you have both a cyber aspect of this, where we notify cyber victims. And then, from an influence perspective, we’re trying to best manage -- and whether that’s working with the social media companies or, as I said, engaging in cyber operations, we’re trying to remove the (inaudible) from the playing field, so to speak.
Q This is Karen Rubin from News & Photo Features. I’m just curious how the FBI officials would act when this President has attacked and demeaned the FBI officials who looked into Russian interference during the 2016 campaign. He’s put people on notice that that is not appropriate.
I also question how you are counting -- or what would be the remedy if you do require audits, or a losing candidate requires an audit, and it shows that enough votes were switched in order to turn the election? What would be the remedy?
SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIAL: So I won’t get into hypotheticals in (inaudible) whatsoever. And I will say that we are not looking backwards; we are focused on the 2020 presidential election. That is where our effort is, and we will continue to move forward in that space, in concert with our partners around the table.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Just to follow up on that, our Attorney General has made clear, publicly and privately, how important this issue is to him and what our marching orders are in order to address these threats.
And to clarify something that the IC said earlier, we don’t presume or attempt to measure the impact of social media content on what people think. It’s not something I think we know how to do, and I don’t think we’d be very good at it if we tried.
With that, we aren’t looking at whether people’s minds are changed in a way that affects how they vote. We are focused on whether, when they vote, that vote is accurately recorded and tabulated, which is principally the responsibility of the state officials. And we are there to help them, but it is the states that will certify the validity of a counted ballot. And we are there to support them in doing that.
Q Yes, hello. This is Chris Bing with Reuters. Given some of the recent news around deterrence with Russia and the planting of implants in Russian infrastructure, I was just hoping you could talk a little bit more about the Defend Forward strategy, as well as how the DOD assesses the risk of escalation during these types of operations -- whether something is ultimately going to lead to deterrence, or it can have the reverse effect and escalate a situation and ultimately cause greater threat to the United States. Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Our Defend Forward strategy was really built to accomplish two things: One was to emphasize the unique role that the department played -- focus on external threats. And so anytime we begin to consider an action against an external threat, we roll through a lot of assessments alongside all of our interagency partners to understand risks in a lot of different varieties to include any escalatory dynamics that might be at play.
We do that in a very transparent manner. Again, we've put in place -- Congress has cooperated with statutes (inaudible), and the legality of activities are clear in terms of what is in the field of operations for the Department of Defense. And we've worked on the process so that we can make decisions in a timely fashion. And so that’s a well-established process. And we've worked very hard and alongside all of our partners here at the table.
The other purpose for the Defend Forward construct is really in support of the DHS and FBI and intelligence community, domestically. If you were to look back in the rearview mirror, there really was very limited interactions from the Department of Defense alongside DHS and FBI in particular for elections support.
When you look at other critical infrastructure segments -- like the energy sector, DOE; financial sector, the Department of Treasury; et cetera -- what we've outlined is how the department can provide support, whether that's information-sharing, as been described with the election, or in a dynamic where we have an incident of significance and the Department of Defense can provide support principally to the Department of Homeland Security and bringing alongside additional capacity, just like we would in any other type of significant event for the nation, manmade or natural.
So that’s really the Defend Forward construct. It's really to look at threats, understand that threat, and be able to preempt, disrupt, and deter that threat before it reaches the homeland. In this case, it's before it influences or impacts an election.
MS. EHRSAM: Thank you so much. Thank you so much to our briefers for taking time today to discuss updates on the whole-of-government efforts to support the state, local, territorial, and tribal partners -- the owners of election security -- to ensure the security of our nation's resilient -- excuse me, our nation's elections.
Very quickly, I want to make sure that you all have contact information for all of the different departments and agencies that were on the call today in case you have follow-up questions and as you have questions in the next following week.
For the Department of Justice, you can reach them at justice.gov/opa/webform/media-
For DNI, they can be reached at DNI-media@DNI.gov.
For CISA, CISAmedia@hq.dhs.gov
For FBI, firstname.lastname@example.org.
For DOD, it is osd.pentagon.pa.list.dpo-atl@
As a reminder, this was on background to different types of senior administration officials that was mentioned throughout the call. If you have any questions about attributions, feel free to shoot me a note at Lauren@nsc.eop.gov. With that, the embargo is lifted. And, again, thank you so much for your time today.
END 2:46 P.M. EDT