- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Obama administration pondered deploying armed federal agents to polling places last November to counter any potential cyberattacks targeting the U.S. election system, according to a newly released playbook prepared during last year’s race.

“​I​n almost all potential cases of malicious cyber activity impacting election infrastructure, state, local, tribal and territorial governments, to include their law enforcement agencies, will have primary jurisdiction to respond​,” the document said.

In the event of a “significant incident,” however, the document said the federal government was prepared to activate a range of “enhanced procedures,” including possible domestic military deployment.

“The Department of Defense (DOD) may support civil authorities in response to cyber incidents based upon a request from a federal agency and the direction of the secretary of defense or the president,” the document said. Available forces include “active and reserve components,” as well as the National Guard, it said.

Federal law enforcement would keep an eye on the election for three days afterwards “in order to be ready to address any post-election cyber incidents (e.g., planted stories calling into question the results),” the report added.

The 15-page plan was drafted by the White House last October and obtained by Time magazine ahead of an article published Thursday by journalists investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The U.S. government believes Russia’s military intelligence agency mounted a multi-pronged campaign aimed at influencing the outcome of last year’s race, the likes of which involved targeting U.S. political targets with state-sponsored hackers.

In addition to successfully breaching email accounts associated with the Democratic National Committee and the party’s candidate for president, Hillary Clinton, Russian hackers also attempted to penetrate election-related computer systems in 21 states ahead of last year’s contest, the Trump administration’s acting deputy undersecretary of cybersecurity testified last month.

Congressional and federal law enforcement officials are currently conducting multiple investigations into the Russian government and its role in last year’s race, including whether any Russian operatives colluded with individuals associated with the election’s ultimate winner, President Trump.

Russian government officials including President Vladimir Putin have denied meddling in last year’s race, and Mr. Trump has repeatedly denied the existence of any ties between his administration and Moscow. Mr. Trump’s eldest son, former campaign manager and senior advisor, meanwhile, are all slated to testify on Capitol Hill next week about a meeting they had at Trump Tower last summer with a Kremlin-connected attorney and a former Soviet intelligence officer, among others.

Mr. Trump has publicly expressed doubts regarding Russia’s role in last year’s election and has claimed without evidence that voter fraud resulted in millions of illegal ballots being cast for Mrs. Clinton. Those allegations are currently being investigated by a presidential commission.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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