- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Senate intelligence committee has concluded that Kremlin-supported operatives targeted the voting in nearly two dozen states in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, according to the first report in the panel’s yearlong probe.

“During the 2016 election, Russian entities targeted presidential campaign accounts, launched cyber-attacks against at least 21 state election systems, and hacked a U.S .voting systems software company,” committee member Sen. James Lankford, Oklahoma Republican, said in a press release accompanying the report, which was released late Tuesday.

No voter tallies or voter registration information is known to have been changed, but the report said that the Russians were “in a position to, at a minimum, alter or delete voter registration data” in a few states.

The report added that such “activities began at least as early as 2014” and “included traditional information-gathering efforts as well as operations likely aimed at preparing to discredit the integrity of the U.S. voting process and election results.”

The committee also blamed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for its initially inadequate response to the Russian intrusions, but added that cooperation and communication with states had greatly improved in recent months.

“In addition, members of the Obama administration were concerned that, by raising the alarm, they would create the very impression they were trying to avoid––calling into question the integrity of election systems,” the report said.

An unclassified summary of the first installment of the committee’s Russia Report, the document includes updated recommendations on election security and findings regarding Russian targeting of election infrastructure across the U.S. The panel has also written a comprehensive, classified report on threats to election infrastructure, which will be released after a declassification review.

Tuesday marked the second major wave of U.S. midterm primaries with voters in West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and North Carolina heading to the polls.

While the panel’s report says the full extent of Russian interference in 2016 remains under investigation, lawmakers led by Sen. Richard Burr cited Tuesday’s vote as a reason to tackle election security as quickly as possible because the country is still vulnerable to attack.

“Today’s primaries are the next step toward the 2018 midterms and another reminder of the urgency of securing our election system,” the North Carolina Republican and committee chairman said in a press release that also praised the committee’s bipartisan cooperation.

The committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia added: “I remain concerned that we as a country are still not fully prepared for the 2018 midterm elections. That’s one reason why we, as a Committee, have decided that it is important to get out as much information as possible about the threat, so that governments at every level take it seriously and take the necessary steps to defend ourselves.”

While the report echoes repeated government claims that there’s no evidence that vote tallies or registration information was manipulated, it also adds that “a small number of cases” the actors successfully penetrated voter registration databases.

The committee released its findings ahead of the panel’s full election security report, which is expected to be made public in the coming weeks.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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