FBI Tells The Governor Of Florida About Election Hacking, But Says He Can't Tell Anyone Else

from the I-guess-democracy-thrives-in-silence dept

I thought this was America, but whatever. Secrecy in all things government, despite the (often misheld) presumption that our public servants will be open and honest about issues that affect us.

It's no secret voting systems and databases are not secure. These are problems that date back 15 years, but have shown little improvement since. Election interference is just another tool in the nation-state hacking kit, and the US is far from immune from these attacks.

Federal agencies investigating election interference are at least speaking to officials in states affected by these efforts. But those officials are apparently not allowed to pass on this information to those affected the most: voters.

Gov. Ron DeSantis met with the FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security last Friday to discuss the revelation in Robert Mueller’s report that “at least one” Florida county had its election information accessed by Russian hackers in 2016.

DeSantis told reporters Tuesday that he had been briefed on that breach — which he said actually happened in two counties in Florida — but that he couldn’t share which counties had been the target.

“I’m not allowed to name the counties. I signed a (non)disclosure agreement,” DeSantis said, emphasizing that he “would be willing to name it” but “they asked me to sign it so I’m going to respect their wishes.”

The FBI does love its non-disclosure agreements and gag orders. It uses these to keep service providers from talking about demands for user data and law enforcement agencies from talking about surveillance tech. It seems state officials shouldn't have to sacrifice the public's right to know for their right to know. This isn't normal, and even Governor DeSantis seemed to recognize that.

DeSantis’ comments came during a surreal Capitol news conference during which he wouldn’t elaborate on the highly unusual situation of the federal government asking a governor to sign a nondisclosure agreement, especially in a case involving that governor’s own state.

DeSantis didn't say much, thanks to this apparently voluntary gag order. He did say what was accessed was likely voter databases rather than vote tallying equipment. He also said the attack resulted from successful spearfishing targeting one of the vendors used by the unnamed Florida counties. The FBI sort of backed this up in a statement, saying none of the detected activity "impacted vote counts or disrupted electoral processes."

Still, none of this makes it clear whether or not the counties themselves have been informed of the breach. Or the vendor. Or the voters in the county. The federal government says don't talk about what you've learned, and the residents of the state are at the mercy of the man who thought the flow of information should stop with him.

But it's not just Governor DeSantis and his willingness to sign an NDA. It's the fact that the DHS and FBI demanded one be signed in the first place. This isn't how a democracy should be run. If there are threats to election security, everyone needs to know, not just a few officials at the top of the food chain.

Filed Under: dhs, doj, election hacking, election interference, election security, elections, fbi, florida, hackers, nda, ron desantis, secrecy, transparency


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  • icon
    ldd (profile), 16 May 2019 @ 3:38am

    Excuses, excuses...

    More likely DeSantis actually does not want the information released. The NDA happens to be a convenient excuse he can point at.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 May 2019 @ 4:01am

      Re: Excuses, excuses...

      Hey, he has admitted that he received information under non-disclosure, how many governors in the same situation have said nothing?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 16 May 2019 @ 3:50am

    But if we told, they might fix the problem

    ...“I’m not allowed to name the counties. I signed a (non)disclosure agreement,”

    Let me guess: that includes not telling the counties in question. Because, if the counties fixed the problem, what would the FBI have to non-disclose next election?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      MathFox, 16 May 2019 @ 4:48am

      Re: But if we told, they might fix the problem

      It's all to protect the vendor of the insecure equipment. If the public knows how bad their stuff is, they can not sell it anymore.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        ibfm, 16 May 2019 @ 5:48am

        Re: if the public knew

        yeah, bottom line is to keep the American Public ignorant of the serious flaws in the election system; hacking vulnerability is just one flaw.

        if the public loses "faith" in the election system -- they then lose trust in the hordes of elected-officials produced by that flawed system.
        can't have that -- the ruling Establishment must be protected at all costs-- screw the public; faith in a democracy-facade is the supreme sacred value?

        Russians know exactly which Florida counties they hacked-- so who is FBI really hiding this info from?
        and where does the FBI get the legal Authority to classify/restrict any info they feel like hiding?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 May 2019 @ 10:44am

        Re: Re: But if we told, they might fix the problem

        How is privatized electronic voting even a thing? It makes no logical sense.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Bamboo Harvester (profile), 16 May 2019 @ 12:41pm

          Re: Re: Re: But if we told, they might fix the problem

          The proffered "logic" behind it is simple security through obscurity, supposedly "only" the company has access.

          Stop laughing so hard, you'll hurt yourself...

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Matthew Cline (profile), 16 May 2019 @ 4:02am

    To play Devil's Advocate...

    Hypothetical: there's multiple groups of attackers, each acting against a single election machine vendor. If the particular vendor was disclosed, that particular group would be alerted that they have an information leak that they need to fix. But if the disclosure is kept to "some county in Florida", then there's so many counties with so many different vendors that it doesn't pin things down enough.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      crade (profile), 16 May 2019 @ 7:27am

      Re: To play Devil's Advocate...

      Its probably that they aren't supposed to be fighting the election hacking so they have to do it in secret or they will get in trouble.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Hero, 16 May 2019 @ 5:17am

    I'd rather hear the voting machine vulnerabilities from at 13-year-old anyway.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JoeCool (profile), 16 May 2019 @ 5:42am

    How to handle this -

    "I am under a NDA to not say which counties were affected. However, I am happily able to say the following counties were not affected. Those counties being..."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 May 2019 @ 5:47am

    Is this why elEEted00d15 is the frontrunner in next year's presidential election?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 May 2019 @ 5:51am

    stanmarsh.gif

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Bamboo Harvester (profile), 16 May 2019 @ 6:22am

    If it's a secret...

    ...why mention it at all?

    Because Mueller! FBI!

    By "disclosing" that he was "briefed" makes him a Key Player, Mr Important!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Tin-Foil-Hat, 16 May 2019 @ 7:22am

    "This isn't how a democracy should be run"

    And a democratic republic is considered a democracy (before some pedant arrives to point it out).

    The US is not a democracy and its election results are questionable at best. I don't believe that votes and tallies weren''t changed. I agree with Trump's assessment of the FBI albeit probably for different reasons. It's too bad the FBI is unaccountable to anyone and the little people are subject to their shenanigans without any recourse. That wouldn't be the case if this really was a democracy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bamboo Harvester (profile), 16 May 2019 @ 8:08am

      Re: "This isn't how a democracy should be run"

      If this was a democracy, 49% of the population would be sold to The Soylent Corporation as raw material.

      The Framers had it right in restricting the vote to land owners. They've got skin in the game.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 May 2019 @ 9:14am

        Re: Re: "This isn't how a democracy should be run"

        bullshit.

        landowners are the least likely to have to bet their own skin on surviving.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Wyrm (profile), 16 May 2019 @ 9:45am

    My question there is...
    What did the governor get in exchange for his silence?
    You just don't "sign an NDA". You sign it as a contact where you shut up about something in exchange for something else (typically money or job).
    So why did he sign it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 16 May 2019 @ 10:25am

    Secret laws, Secret crimes...

    'Merkia!!!!!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 16 May 2019 @ 10:30am

    lets see...

    I know and understand how this is..
    Its not a hard concept/idea based on the past and what Was happening. And how easy to carry it onto today.

    First lets say this..

    1. you need an election to have At least 51% of the people to vote.
    2. Registered Repud and demo, is around 33%. Do the math in your state. It always comes out around 30%.
    3. how to count people? by age, race, what ever..

    Now lets add.
    Who gets was, Born/died/age. and where..
    This cross reference was hard to keep up in every state, and hardly cross referenced, as there were ALLOT of John Doe's and Persons with the same names.
    Then Social sec was never given out until you were working age 12-16.. And how many person DONT carry that with them if found dead.
    How to track a person that has moved OUT of the area/city/state/nation..
    Then those names Before age 2-8..
    If this does not get your mind working think of how much it would take to give them a back history..
    Find a child about your time frame of birth, walk into a Social sec office, and Claim the name.. A few fake pieces of ID or a person that Will give you ACCESS to those names in the office, and you can change your name and have a Full history...Then goto work. the younger you are the better...great for this in the teens who Did bad things..
    NOW...Claim those name into other states.. make fake persons.. you dont need allot of names, because most states DONT have records with SS# at birth until the last 20 years..

    So, how to fix this...NOT EASY..
    How about a hospital designed to give Fake birth records?? only a few around the country with 1 person setup to give a few per year that will insert 1-5 names of births.. Collected by a group that keeps up the data, and gives it a history..

    There was an occasion that they looked up the records of people listed for voting.. They found 5 people living in a house that wasnt even built at an address that Could not be made.

    Now, with this little bit of info, is your brain hurting yet or is this making sense??

    How to stop this from happening..Face recog, and using a STATE ID that checks for VIABLE Address and info...??

    How about when these person retire? Or do they Just DIE before SS# kicks in to give them money for working??

    How to corrupt a simple system 101.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Personanongrata, 16 May 2019 @ 3:14pm

    Secrecy is where Constitutional Government goes to Die

    “I’m not allowed to name the counties. I signed a (non)disclosure agreement,” DeSantis said, emphasizing that he “would be willing to name it” but “they asked me to sign it so I’m going to respect their wishes.”

    Nice governor.

    How does a (non)disclosure agreement supersede his constitutional obligations to his constituents in Florida?

    Only tyrants govern in secret with secret laws and Star Chamber kangaroo courts (ie Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court).

    Italicized/bold text below was excerpted from the website www.brennancenter.org and found within a report titled The New Era of Secret Law:

    An unprecedented buildup of secret law has been created by the federal government since 9/11 through legal memos, court opinions, agreements with foreign nations, and more. All have been issued without public scrutiny or input — and many impact crucial decisions about the lives and liberties of U.S. citizens, from the use of torture to mass surveillance.

    https://www.brennancenter.org/publication/new-era-secret-law

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 16 May 2019 @ 3:26pm

      Re: Secrecy is where Constitutional Government goes to Die

      pretty close, but I would suggest going back to Reagan..
      Then adding that out TRADE agreements, Which are supposed to be handled by our gov. have been GIVEN to the corps to deal with..(stupid)
      The Laws that Regulate and Protect Citizens, tend to have gone away..
      Many Pollution laws disappeared..

      The Secrecy was there..WE didnt have the internet..

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jim, 16 May 2019 @ 4:41pm

    Eh?

    Regan, right, but not that reason, ever heard of the ayotolla(so) ? A year before Regan beat Carter, they were in Iran, talking to the Aya, and promising money to keep hostages in their prisons. But, actually, go back further and look at the first trade agreement with China. Nixon. Negotiating had been ongoing, with the Republican party, two years before tricky.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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