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Russia hacks: 21 states targeted in US election cyber attacks, says US

Former Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson is confident that Russian President Vladimir Putin himself orchestrated the attacks


Alexandra Wilts
Washington DC
Wednesday 21 June 2017 22:39 BST
Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson arrives to testify before the House Intelligence Committee
Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson arrives to testify before the House Intelligence Committee (AP)

An official for the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has said that election systems in 21 states were targeted in Russian cyber attacks in the 2016 presidential election.

But Jeanette Manfra, undersecretary for cybersercurity at DHS, told the Senate intelligence committee that she could not disclose the identities of the states because it's up to them to decide whether to say they had been targets.

It's “important to protect the confidentiality we have and the trust we have with that community,” Ms Manfra said.

Both the Senate's and House of Representatives' intelligence committees held hearings on Wednesday as part of their ongoing investigations into Russian meddling in the US election.

During the House's proceeding, former Homeland Secretary Jeh Johnson testified that he knows of “no evidence that through cyber intrusions, votes were altered or suppressed in some way.”

In his opening statement to the committee, Mr Johnson said that he was “not in a position to know whether the successful Russian government-directed hacks of the [Democratic National Committee] and elsewhere did in fact alter public opinion and thereby alter the outcome of the presidential election.”

However, he later noted during his testimony that he has not had access to classified information for five months, meaning that DHS may have come to a different conclusion since he left his post in January.

He added that he's “not sure” he had the authority at DHS to probe whether votes were affected.

Mr Johnson was confident that Russian president Vladimir Putin himself orchestrated the cyber attacks on the US for the purpose of influencing the election. “That is a fact, plain and simple,” he said.

During Thursday's White House press briefing, Press Secretary Sean Spicer could not confirm or deny whether Donald Trump, who has previously praised Mr Putin as “very smart”, believes that the Russian government interfered in the 2016 election. Certain Trump campaign advisers are also currently under investigation for alleged ties to Russia.

“I have not sat down and talked to him about that specific thing,” Mr Spicer said.

Mr Johnson also faced questions from the House intelligence committee about why the Obama administration

Members of the House panel repeatedly pressed Johnson on why the Obama administration was slow to go public with reports on Russia’s role in the cyber attacks.

Mr Johnson said the former administration was afraid of “injecting ourselves into a very heated campaign.”

Asked about what more the government should in the future, Mr Johnson responded that the US really needs a “national leader to take charge of this issue.”

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