During the 2016 election, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security didn’t know which state officials to communicate with to relay the threat of attempted Russian interference. That confusion is one thing U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich wants to fix with the Securing America’s Voting Equipment (SAVE) Act, which he introduced with Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins. “I think overall, over the course of the last few decades, we may have become complacent as a country as to the potential for this,” Heinrich said of attempts to influence elections in the United States. “There were cases where they were maybe engaged with the wrong decisionmaker or talking to the vendor instead of, say a secretary of state or a county clerk,” Heinrich said. “Just getting all of that written down in a way that sort of provides a roadmap for a real-time event so that the response is quick provides a lot of advantages.”
If passed, the legislation would strengthen the security of the country’s elections system, which are not centrally run by the federal government, but by state and local officials.
There’s no indication that New Mexico’s voter databases were improperly accessed, according to New Mexico’s secretary of state. This comes even as U.S. senators probed the issue in a hearing Wednesday morning. Wednesday morning, Jeanette Manfra, the acting undersecretary for cybersecurity and communications at DHS, told the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee that election systems in 21 states were targeted in a Russian cyber attack. Manfra declined to say which states were targeted or what, if any, data was accessed by the hackers. Jeh Johnson said that while interference by Russia “was unprecedented” in “scale and scope,” there was no indication that Russians changed any votes in 2016.
Sen. Martin Heinrich played a central role during Thursday’s committee hearing with former FBI Director James Comey. The landmark Senate Intelligence Committee hearing received wall-to-wall coverage on news stations across the political spectrum. A day before, current Trump intelligence officials testified in front of the same committee. Heinrich slammed those officials for their refusal to answer questions from the Senators. In the hearing, Comey testified about President Donald Trump firing him, the FBI investigations into those around Trump and his thoughts on former Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s involvement in the investigation into Clinton’s emails.
U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich put a hold on an intelligence bill over what his office calls a “massive expansion of government surveillance.”
Heinrich’s office announced the hold on the Intelligence Authorization Act, which essentially blocks the legislation, on Tuesday morning. Heinrich said that he is doing so because of concerns over the constitutionality of the expanded authorization for domestic surveillance. At issue are National Security Letters, which the federal government can use to get information without approval from a judge. The Electronic Privacy Information Center says the letters give “the FBI the power to compel the disclosure of customer records held by banks, telephone companies, Internet Service Providers, and others.”
The proposal would expand the list of information the FBI could get using these letters. “This represents a massive expansion of government surveillance and gives the FBI access to law-abiding Americans’ email and browser histories without judicial approval or independent oversight,” Heinrich said in a statement.
Three U.S. Senators asked CIA director John Brennan to acknowledge that the agency improperly accessed Senate files and want the director to pledge that it will not happen again. U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., was one of the three Senators to sign onto the letter, along with Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii. All three are members of the Senate Intelligence Committee. “It is vitally important for the American public to have confidence that senior intelligence officials respect US laws and the Constitution, including our democratic system of checks and balances,” the letter to Brennan said. “In our judgment your handling of this matter has undermined that confidence.