Federal officials say “we have not seen any new or ongoing compromises of state or local election infrastructure in Florida.” The response comes from the heads of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation who were asked to clarify claims by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson that Russian hackers have “penetrated” some county registration databases in Florida.
Nelson made the claims a couple of weeks ago. When asked by Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner to substantiate his remarks Nelson failed to respond.
“Last week, prior to receiving this response from DHS and the FBI, Secretary Detzner and the President of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections, a bi-partisan association of Florida’s independent and locally-elected Supervisors of Elections, reached out directly to Senator Nelson, but so far we have received zero response from him,” the Secretary of State’s office said in a statement Tuesday.
Nelson has since maintained his position without offering details.
The letter from DHS and the FBI says while there is no new compromises of voting databases in Florida, the heads of the two agencies say “Russian government actors have previously demonstrated both the intent and capability to conduct malicious cyber operations.”
The letter also states that, “DHS and the FBI will continue to notify any victim of a successful cyber intrusion into their election network in any jurisdiction nationwide.”
A report last week by NBC news said there was a basis for Nelson’s comments, despite a fact check by the Washington Post that suggested there was nothing to substantiate Nelson’s claims.
“However, three people familiar with the intelligence tell NBC News that there is a classified basis for Nelson’s assertion, which he made at a public event after being given information from the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee,” NBC reported. “The extent and seriousness of the threat remains unclear, shrouded for reasons of national security.”
Nelson’s original comments have evoked harsh criticism from his opponent in the race for the U.S. Senate. Gov. Rick Scott called Nelson “irresponsible and reckless.”
“It is irresponsible and reckless that Bill Nelson would attempt to undermine the voters’ confidence in their county elections systems by making confusing statements while campaigning and then walking away with absolutely no explanation. Even worse, he’s done so with no evidence, potentially revealing classified information, and with a constantly shifting explanation for his bizarre remarks,” Scott said.
Scott accused Nelson of being either “deeply confused or very dishonest,” or both.
“Bill Nelson’s confusion has caused chaos and he should be transparent with the state, Florida voters and the hardworking election supervisors about his unfortunate decision to undermine voters’ confidence in our election systems,” Scott added.