Washington, Jun 21 (EFE).- Former US Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on Wednesday reiterated that Russian President Vladimir Putin was directly responsible for the cyberattacks conducted during the 2016 election campaign with the presumed aim of influencing the final result.
“In 2016, the Russian government, at the direction of (Russian President) Vladimir Putin himself, orchestrated cyberattacks on our nation for the purpose of influencing our election – plain and simple,” Johnson told the House Intelligence Committee, which is tasked with investigating Moscow’s alleged interference in the election.
“Now, the key question for the president and Congress is: What are we going to do to protect the American people and their democracy from this kind of thing in the future?” the former Barack Obama administration official, who served as homeland security secretary from 2013-2017.
Johnson said that Russia’s interference was unprecedented, both in scale and scope.
Nevertheless, he went on to say that the Russian cyberactivity did not physically alter any ballots, affect any vote counts or otherwise directly change any election results.
He added that he could not confirm with complete certainty that the Russian hacking “directed” by the Kremlin altered public opinion or influenced the way people voted in the election, in which Republican Donald Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton.
When asked by lawmakers, Johnson also explained why the Obama administration waited until October to make public the alleged attempts by Russia to influence the elections.
Johnson said that the Obama administration had to wait because one of the candidates, referring to Trump, said that the election was “rigged” to favor a Clinton victory.
In addition, he referred to the hack-attack suffered by the Democratic National Committee that resulted in WikiLeaks last July publishing more than 19,000 controversial DNC e-mails among party officials discussing tactics to defeat Sen. Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s rival for the Democratic presidential nomination.
On that subject, Johnson said that the FBI and the DNC were in contact before the cyberattack and that, at the time, the Democrats did not feel they needed his department’s help in combatting hacking.
After the attack on the DNC, Johnson offered his department’s help to officials with the 50 US states, noting that 33 states and 36 cities and counties decided to use DHS tools to identify vulnerabilities in their computer systems and develop ways to mitigate the effect of any hack-attacks on voting precincts or on voter databases.
While Johnson was testifying in the lower house, other DHS officials, including cybersecurity and communications deputy secretary Jeanette Manfra, were testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is also investigating Russian election interference.
Manfra said that the voting systems of 21 states were the targets of Russian attacks during the election.