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After former Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Chris Krebs described the 2020 presidential election as “the most secure in American history” last month, President Donald Trump fired him, turning him into a media darling.
Yet weeks later, it appears that the media’s latest “Resistance” hero may have serious explaining to do about why his claim seems to contrast emerging evidence showing that the U.S. government was hacked by foreign actors under his watch.
Late last weekend Reuters reported that internal email traffic at the U.S. Department of Treasury and the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration had been hacked by foreign actors for months.
Days later, Krebs’ own former employer, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) released a damning report outlining the extent of the hack.
“The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) is aware of compromises of U.S. government agencies, critical infrastructure entities, and private sector organizations by an advanced persistent threat (APT) actor beginning in at least March 2020,” the agency wrote.
“This APT actor has demonstrated patience, operational security, and complex tradecraft in these intrusions. CISA expects that removing this threat actor from compromised environments will be highly complex and challenging for organizations.”
This means the intrusions happened during the course of the lengthy 2020 election. Moreover, the intrusions reportedly affected multiple parts of the federal government, including the National Nuclear Security Administration, which is reportedly responsible for managing and protecting America’s nuclear stockpile.
It’s believed the parties responsible for these hacks are Russian:
The methods used to carry out the cyberhack are consistent with Russian cyber operations.
But it’s crucial we have complete certainty about who is behind this.
We can’t afford to be wrong on attribution, because America must retaliate, and not just with sanctions.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) December 18, 2020
It’s also believed that both Krebs and the anti-Trump “Resistance” media personalities who’ve elevated him into the status of a folk hero have some explaining to do.
“He garnered a lot of media coverage for contradicting the president, appearing on a slew of television news programs. ‘Christopher Krebs defended election integrity. Trump fired him,’ read a PBS News Hour headline. He even appeared on CBS’ ’60 Minutes’ in late November, where he was asked about his dismissal,” Fox News notes.
Indeed, and following his appearance on “60 Minutes,” the president slammed him:
Trump blasts fired elections security director and ’60 Minutes’ for ‘ridiculous, one-sided’ interview https://t.co/pamgH7MMG6 pic.twitter.com/YIo2jwlXA1
— Conservative News (@BIZPACReview) November 30, 2020
Conversely, the media clung to Krebs’ every word and reported them as objective facts.
“In interview with ‘60 Minutes,’ Chris Krebs debunks Trump’s baseless election fraud accusations,” a headline from The Boston Globe reads.
CNN even went so far as to allow Krebs to pen an op-ed published this Tuesday in which the former CISA official suggested “the assault on democracy” that occurred in this year’s election didn’t come from “Russian interference” but “from within.”
“As Election Day came and went, we continued to monitor networks across the country and work with our partners, with them reporting any suspicious activity to us. As I said in a news briefing, Election Day was ‘just another Tuesday on the internet.’ Normal sorts of scanning and probing were happening, but we did not see any successful attacks or damaging disruptions,” he claimed.
“Unfortunately, as we moved on from November 3, we began to see wild and baseless claims of domestic origin, about hackers and malicious algorithms that flipped the vote in states across the country, singling out election equipment vendors for having ties to deceased foreign dictators. None of these claims matched up with the intelligence we had, based on reporting from election officials or how elections actually work in this country.”
The piece, which was published Tuesday, didn’t even mention the hack on the U.S. Department of Treasury and the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration that had been reported on by Reuters just two days earlier. It’s not like he hadn’t been aware of the report.
Look at what he tweeted Monday:
As news breaks about what looks to be a pretty large-scale hack, I have the utmost confidence in the @CISAgov team and other Federal partners. I’m sorry I’m not there with them, but they know how to do this. This thing is still early, I suspect. Let’s let the pros work it.
— Chris Krebs (@C_C_Krebs) December 13, 2020
Meanwhile, prior to his termination last month he’d posted a video to CISA’s official YouTube page preemptively downplaying any future reports of hacks or election interference.
“Tens of millions of voters have already cast their votes free from foreign interference. We remain confident that no foreign cyber actor can change your vote, and we still believe that it would be incredibly difficult for them to change the outcome of an election at the national level,” he said.
“But that doesn’t mean various actors won’t try to introduce chaos in our elections and make sensational claims that overstate their capabilities. In fact, the days and weeks just before and after election day are the perfect time for our adversaries to launch efforts intended to undermine your confidence in the integrity of the electoral process.”
Listen to his remarks below:
Despite Krebs’ confidence, it was under his tenure that virtually the entire federal government was hacked, a fact that raises serious concerns about his credibility.
As does the fact that according to former Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert, “The magnitude of the attack cannot be overstated.”
“The logical conclusion is that we must act as if the Russian government has control of all the networks it has penetrated. But it is unclear what the Russians intend to do next. The access the Russians now enjoy could be used for far more than simply spying,” he wrote in an op-ed Wednesday.
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