Ongoing coverups hiding threat to election security revealed by Reality Winner document

September 19, 2017

Reality Winner, 25-year-old Air Force veteran, former NSA contractor, and alleged whistleblower, is awaiting a decision on her bail hearing this Friday, October 6th. And While the government continues to make this trial about Reality’s (well-informed, courageous) politics, they’ve continued to hide from the real issue at the heart of this trial — the glaring security holes in America’s election infrastructure, and the Trump administration’s threats to election security.

Government and the press spreading confusion on election hack

The document Reality is charged with leaking asserted the Russian government successfully broke into some number of election systems related to voter registration. Follow-up reports said about 21 states were affected, and that election officials still hadn’t been notified by the government whether their state was targeted. Like everyone else, they learned about the massive holes in their election security from The Intercept.

A story from the Associated Press on September 23rd said the Department of Homeland Security, after months of complaints and condemnation from local election officials, finally informed officials in those states they were targeted.

Since the article was published, some additional details have emerged to confuse the overall story. DHS made an incredibly confusing statement about Wisconsin, leaving it unclear whether the state was actually targeted or not, and California election officials concluded from their own analysis that while DHS told them California was targeted, its systems were not “breached”.

Various news outlets have used this confusion to dismiss the entire thing as mere “Russia hysteria”, implying, as the Trump administration has, that there’s nothing to see here. But these details don’t change the substance of the story at all.

Alex Padilla, the same California election official who later said DHS was incorrect, made this statement in the AP story:

“It is completely unacceptable that it has taken DHS over a year to inform our office of Russian scanning of our systems, despite our repeated requests for information. The practice of withholding critical information from elections officials is a detriment to the security of our elections and our democracy.”

Trump’s “election security” plans threaten election integrity

It is completely unacceptable for the government to keep playing games with this information, and for news outlets to dismiss such an important story, especially when there’s an even bigger threat on the horizon: the Trump administration’s own plans for “elections security”.

In a story published in the Guardian on September 17th, reporter Andrew Gumbel wrote:

“After a decade of wrangling between Democrats who have sought to expand voting opportunities and Republicans who have invoked the specter of voter fraud to restrict them, the focus is now on purging registration lists – even at the risk of kicking large numbers of eligible voters off the rolls.”

The article talks about Trump’s plan to purge voter rolls by creating a national database of voter data and using it to challenge individuals’ right to vote on a massive scale. This database creates its own massive security risk, according to an op-ed in the Washington Post.

The public has a right to know

The Trump administration is keeping the public in the dark about threats to election integrity, even as it creates new threats of its own. That’s why they don’t want to let Reality’s lawyers talk about the document, or subsequent news reports, in court — they know they’re doing real, measurable harm by withholding this information from the public, and that we’re all safer and better informed with the document Reality is charged with leaking being public.

Stand With Reality will continue raising the alarm about election security issues, even when some news outlets won’t. Please donate today so we can make sure Reality gets a fair trial, and continue our critical public education efforts so people understand what’s at stake.

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