When Does Legitimate Investigation And Questioning Become A Political Football?

Secretary of State Brian Kemp has been making a big social media push on his efforts to demand answers from the Department of Homeland Security regarding network scans against state systems earlier this year.

I like Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, and I think he’s right for asking pointed questions to the Department of Homeland Security with regards to recent hacking allegedly done by DHS, but at what point does it become more about taking a last swipe at the outgoing administration for political points more than the security of the state systems and data in his office?

There are legitimate questions.  Did the Department of Homeland Security perform a penetration test against states without prior knowledge for national security purposes (remember, cyberwarriors and hackers don’t exactly send you a greeting card saying “Hi, I’m trying to get through your firewall now. kthx. Hope you’re ready…”)?  Was this retribution for Secretary Kemp’s testimony before Congress against the federalization or nationalization of election systems?  Will these questions even be answered by this administration?   I believe these are legitimate concerns, but you must remember these were network scans…I’d like to know if there were any vulnerabilities found and any systems breached by exploiting those vulnerabilities.

Those questions should be answered, but it seems like Secretary Kemp is making a big social media and traditional media push on this issue.  Let’s be honest, the season to jump into the Republican gubernatorial race is right around the corner, so I’m sure Secretary Kemp is gearing up to show his strong resistance to attempts by the federal government to take over election systems by making it into a political football.  Or something.  Fellow Republicans are jumping on the train with torches and pitchforks to demand answers from the Obama-led DHS.  This begs the question…would there be this much uproar, social media posts, and race to the cameras to denounce a Trump-led DHS if the shoe was on the other foot.

What gets me is that there is more uproar by some conservatives over a simple network scan with no reported intrusion into state systems by a federal agency than concern for a foreign country to infiltrate and possibly influence elections.  Of course, top US intelligence leaders haven’t accepted the CIA’s report on that…nor have they denied it either.  If the Russians, or another group of motivated persons, infiltrated the Democratic National Committee’s systems and leaked the information in order to influence the election, then we should be concerned and working to secure ourselves rather than mocking the other side.  It could easily happen to the Republican National Committee in 2020 or 2024 if we decide to turn a blind-eye to it.  I don’t want our nation to be held over a barrel because Julian Assange suddenly decides to pick on the GOP (or both major parties!) come next election.

I’ve stressed cybersecurity a lot over the past few months, but securing America’s networks is now a part of our nation’s national security efforts.  I believe that there should be questions asked and investigations into the Department of Homeland Security’s network scans and what their intent was.  There should be a partnership between, rather than an outright federalization of, states and their sensitive systems and data and the federal government.  I also believe we need to look at Russia with a more cautious eye and investigate security breaches into both the DNC and RNC that may have been lead by the Russians.

“Trust, but verify” as one revered Republican president once said.  Hopefully we can keep politics to a minimum when it comes to our nation’s cybersecurity.

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