At the briefing, we were astonished to discover that, in fact, two Florida counties had been penetrated. Although it appears the Russians were in a position to alter voter data in these counties, there is no evidence to indicate they did so. We were told the counties’ names but were barred by our briefers from disclosing them to the public. A subsequent report by the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee, which refers to targeted states by number, has deepened the mystery. The heavily redacted discussion of “State 2” — which appears to be Florida — now suggests four counties might have been compromised. Waltz and I have requested another briefing to clarify. Presumably, we will again be prohibited from sharing what we learn with our constituents.
It’s self-defeating to be given incomplete information and then be required to remain silent about the few facts we do know. If we can’t form a clear picture of past election interference efforts, we won’t learn how best to fend off future attacks.
Why have the details of this foreign attack on our democracy been shrouded in secrecy? For the most part, it’s not the need to protect intelligence sources and methods. Rather, it’s that federal law enforcement agencies view local election officials whose networks were targeted as victims entitled to confidentiality. I believe the victims are the voters, who deserve to know what happened and what their leaders are doing to prevent it from happening again. The half-release of information has one clear side effect; it reduces the public’s faith in our system, which could depress voter turnout. That would please Russian President Vladimir Putin.