tv Former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff Discusses Election Security CSPAN January 28, 2021 10:14pm-10:44pm EST
hello everyone excavation.and welcome back saul talks my name is john darcy and in the managing director of salt was to grow goal global leadership form and networking platform at the intersection of finance and technology and public policy. salt talks or digital series and with leaders, investors, craters, and investors. our goal on salt talks is the goal at our self conference series which is to provide a window into the mind of subject matter experts and provide a platform which we think are big ideas that are ashaping the future. we are excited to bring you to
our first episode on the series that covers elections it covers election integrity, election operations, and election integrity and collection security. our conversation is with us today mister michael chertoff. i'm going to read a little bit about his bio before i turn it over to our host for today's talk. as secretary of the us department of homeland security security, 2522009 he led the country from walking would be terrorists from crossing our borders and implement a the planet they were already in the country. he also transformed fema into an effective organization following hurricane katrina. his greatest successes have earned few headlines because the important news is what did not happen. his group provide high-level strategic counsel to globall government leaders on a wide range of issues.
from preparedness and response and recovery. before heading up the department of homeland security mister chertoff served h as the federal judge of the us court of appeal the third circuit. earlier during the decade is a federal prosecutor he prosecuted cases of purple corruption, organized crime, corporate fraud and terrorism. investigation of the 911 terrorist attacks. mister chertoff graduate from magna cum laude from harvard of harvard college75 in 1975 and from harvard law school in 1978. from 19791980 he serves a clerk to the supreme court justice william brennan junior. hosting today's talk is elliott burke. the managing partner of burke farrar, and an expert on everything related to politics includingg election law and election operation. so we're very pleased to have him here for some host on salt talk and for that i will turn over to ella different in their view. >> thank you john, thank you
secretary chertoff for her talk today. we launch is talk in the form to discuss the administration on elections. including the role federal government. both these talks will provide a counter to some of the noise in thisse information that is been out there it will help to clarify the federal role in our elections and why the states largely have the discretion to and minister of the elections. but when the federal government does get involvedoe in when my thanks goes out. we wanted to talk today about the role that they have in the election issues and oversight. you were there on those up deputy out since on the creation of the apartment. we took over at from secretary what role did you see the department having in our elections and hower is that change over time? i took over when i took over the issue of elections is not a very controversial one. but as with anything that relies with some degree in the internet, we became
increasingly focused on the issue of security against hackers or people who might interfere with the electoral process over the internet. now the good news news is that you pointed out that the actual manner of voting is very widely distributed. so would be essentially impossible at scale, for an adversary to affect different devotion places nationally. the machines themselves that you actually vote on, by and large are not actually connected to thed internet very briefly. but where we were concerned about the possibility, for example, voter databases being interfered with and being crafted in some way or simply shut down. to assume that dhs waswh involved back when i was secretary, it would have been giving cybersecurity advice to states. but that was still in a very early stage of learning about this set of problems.
>> so now that you look back from your time as secretary till today, how do you think that this change? >> i think that change a number of respects, first of all, there is a concern that we have running up to the last election. when the actual terrific terrorist attack on voting processes. m meaning when somebody goes to try to disrupt people and if it voting at a particular location or committing an actt of violence and that really has been true with domestic extremism. and that is concern to the part of some extremist to interfere in the area of voting and that's because they feel that it would be unfavorable to their preferred candidate. so that's a new consideration that was not there when i was there. this information, was announced by foreign adversaries for domestic actors now is a very, very big
issue and is starting in 2016he when there that has online presence where they try to affect whether they voted in a vote and election of 2016. and finally the issue of hacking into databases, freezing them, ransoming them that might make it difficult to verify who actually it was to vote. think those are much more sound now. we look across the entire election board of security, were more concerned with this information that is used to influence or corrupt people's understanding of what's going on and we are concerned about the possibility of attacks on registration databases. that there iss the minimum that the process of voting that would make it very difficult.
i remember but i'm sure you don't remember this. i was actually counseled to the house majority leader's when you took over for secretary of homeland security was in my responsibility of issues. and remember you coming into one of the first things he talked about was preparedness and you are concerned about conservatism or various things and being the home key land security adviser. what you think would if this locks election over security from your standpoint.of view. >> in many ways, i will say that i was concerned that there might be interference at a particular location. perfectly places which are to be candid, were heavily democratic in the years before and might be reviewed by trump supporters as being hostile as it turned out there is very little integration for the actual voting process. it went remarkably smoothly, in fact keeping the virus and
with the pandemic, and makes people nervous about going to public places where they might get infected. so that was good. second there was very actual little offense or defense with voting databases. i'm not aware very many wide scale reporting efforts to either shut down or registration databases or interfere tabulations. and again, that is a very good new story and in some cases you have to, many cases you have to have paper ballots or then use them as backups you can verify and then double check to make sure this a problem with the machines. that's a good new story. i think frankly, the biggest problem that we had was after the election. it was the contesting of the faelection results that was sitting the fact that i think
60 judges rejected his claims is bogus and really resounded they rejected them. and of course that accumulation of thenf infamous insurrection rockford on january 6. which was unsuccessful try to actually prevent the announcement of the vote in a way that was really sit in those and effort in fear of the election results, although candidly not succeeded. >> yes from knowing this the lead up to this.up there were comments on both sides leading upp to the election about attempts to steal the election and things like that. t and then breaking down actually as you said, most elite was a good new story the administration of the election, shortly after the election the office of cybersecurity within the department of homeland
security which my understanding is relatively new office in terms of how it operates issued a couple of statements ultimately, the latter of which has resulted in its head being fired by the president. looking at those statements and what they said, the kind of remarkable now in hindsight because they really did speak to the the ministration and election own and what is was considered successful. the first one that with foreign actors and how there was not, there was confidence that there was no successful efforts to change or stop them from voting. there were likely attempts what you have seen that. there certainly were in 2016. but we've seen hacking across our governments and other departments and agencies. why do you thinknk these attempts have not been successful? were they may have been successful in actually getting data from other branches or
departments of our government. >> well first off ofe me first say now where the train general bar there is no indication of new large photo for fraud in the elections. oddly, the widely disturbed and nature of the way we can duct elections and makes us resilient. unlike attacking a single target worry where you penetrate you might actually affect and have an outcome which would have a national scope you'd have to enter and hack into the 500 databases and try to ultimately get results. that is just not practical from a standpoint of the adversary. so the widely distributed and decentralized way that we conduct our elections, although can be a little frustrating sometimes see this unevenness in the level of security, they are ultimately the strength and having national election which would
be very, veryec difficult to affect using online hacking and similar tactics. >> will do things that we did is that we created the elections commission and we an agency but does not have an oversight and if you help to the states only if you have moved away from electronic receiving and paper ballots. i think that is very important the ghost of this underlining issue that when we talked about voter fraud and voter intimidation somebody who's been doing this for 25 years, both of those exist. and they should not be tolerated any level, but inflating what happens in any specific cases, and then, and a widespread basis i think is is a disservice to the american people which just undermines the integrity for the elections.
we need to obviously cross investigated investigated and even saying as some that the widespread fraud does not exist, knowing that his target though it that's what matters. we did not seet that this time around. and you knowin i think some of the lawsuits coming out of its that demand you'd and challenge those exertions are going to have a self-correcting influence. of the date your thoughts that too. >> first of all, there had been individual instances of fraud historically. and as you observed to be focused on local elections it could actually have an effect if you got 20,000 voters voting for local officials and then maybe a couple of thousand of thosese votes would have a couple of have an impact. ironicallytu, years ago as a prosecutor when i was a
prosecutor in new york actually convicted a politician for voter fraud were his actions were bad. he went into an homework people were mentally disabled, heat a whole bunch of absentee ballots and he basically fill them out and had them signed and sent them in and thereby of the ballots in. but he had like 50, and might not have been valid for his election but it wouldn't affect anything nationally. the concern is theee what a lot happened is in the post election and the follow-up to the election, was attacking the process and the integrity itself. early undermines trust in government. becausego essentially the argument to be made is the presidential election is not valid in the results than are not valid and then in those parts of the world where people repeatedly are told electionsed can't be trusted, they are not valid that is
usually pertinent to a dictatorship. where the strongman says know what is valid is me and my beliefs and they'd forced to get control. that is not what this country is about, is what we're fighting fought against his will be fought wars against. and so when our own the public officials that have been undermining confidence is very dis- main. but on the good news side, the number of state and local officials who resolutely rejected his claims of fraud, or to dishearten his defense that the fidelity of our constitution that most of our public servants believe in. >> yes, i think those are excellent points. even going back to the statement that ultimately got chris fired. looking back on it into your.about the federal government does not to work in a vacuum here. it works with state, local, and even privatel, partners.
that statement became so controversial is to the president was actually a joint statement included the chairman of the election assistance commission, the secretary of state association, and various parties across our federal and state government. as well as private entities. you talk a little bit about her could you talk little bit about how the office does in her face with its state partners? >> well so what we're talking about is basically cybersecurity and infrastructure security agency and it's what were usedy to call by a different name. but basically as the principal of the dhs responsibility to secure all of our critical infrastructure against terrorist attacks or similar efforts to undermine our security. and in 2016, right up until the election will begin to experience a large influx of
disinformation, then secretary said made the election another one of the critical infrastructural priorities with the agencyy he works with. and of course agency deals with the oil and cash sector, transportation, indications, so is that a broad spectrum. in up into the selection, that what the agency did was work with state and local governments to help them secure their infrastructure attack. literally an attack that would attempt to affect the government process or the registration process or the counting process. foods to upgrade security across the board and to give state and local officials to get the tools they need to protect themselves against an attack. and i think they were able to do quite a a good job of that. and that has to continue. >> i think i'm not sure, but i don't know if you saw, there were some critics on the rights that attacked the statement in theth office saying
their advisor in nature and they are not and they are only in a position to weigh in on this. i think it failed to appreciate what the role of the office is if you just laid out. isry that it is advisory, but it's advisory in the sense that it works with the state partners and the state partners alsort joined in this conclusion. so ultimately, you have the validation of the fold, federal, state, local and even private parties here and that is the way our system should work. his unevenness some credits of said federal lysing off what is a state responsibility, it is showing federalism in howie work together at the federal, state local. >> corrected the partnership and that is the way in which dhs works withwo state and local partners one a whole host of security issues. to protect our infrastructure against attacks by terrorist or foreign nations.
>> i mentioned the dominican voting systems lawsuit, and i'm sure you saw this video that was going around about somebody walking through and seeing how votes could actually change. and wondering if any thoughts on that? or the losses in general and where do you think they are going to end up? >> well i haven't seen the video, but i have no evidence really that these machines somehow altered votes aware were rigged in some way. and so frankly, i understand why these companies are suing. because what they're basically saying put your money where your mouth is. if you can prove something fine, if you can't you're going to pay us because you've damaged us to. and needs to be accountability. now there were people who made unbelievable irresponsible made of accusations again, which undermines our faith in our government and also no
doubt injured divisions of companies. >> i think that's right. i haven't seen, could you tells of a time when retractions have such a significant level made by major media outlets. i mean fox news, newsmax, the american thinker, they have all been forced i think, to take a look at the statements and retracted for fear of litigation. do you think that in itself will potentially be self-correcting moving forward? >> well i do think having you know removing impunity from people who deliberately make up nonsense and propagate it is helpful. there should be accountability. and if these news medium are not able to demonstrate a good faith-based account of what they did then had to own up to what they didn't retract it or they have to pay the price. >> knowing that paying the
price and terms of the processing of the insurrection andof the fbi arresting numerous people involved in its there has been some debate debate within the justice department about whether to charge people that simply may not have been violent but they simply may have been trespassing in a sense. what are your thoughts on that you have never obviously had a case like this in our history but in terms of the disinformation campaign that led to this to what degree do you think that people should be held responsible? >> well, forcible anybody who broke in the dock they merely wandered into someone else's backyard a mistake, if they broke in and wandered around they would be had accountable. the obvious and there's going to be different charges for different people and the higher priority those who committed acts of violence,
those who stole documents, or items from the capital and apparently a number did. that is the highest priority and those of the most serious charges. but i do think that the incitementnt issue is a very serious issue. the reality is first of all, there people who came deliberately expecting can make to commit acts of violence and if you look at that what some of them are carrying. ie would say there's a good reason to believe that they intended to capture and kill the person of congress based on the issue concerning voting. that is a very serious issue. that is really essentially to me almost an act of treason. if they just wanted to walk wandered around to disrupt and tethen commit crimes they should be accounted for. but we need to look at those in citing. in the language that was used was heavily failed to go to the capital and commit to
mayhem, including physical violence against our elected legislators. and that cannot be ignored. i would imaginenesl over time particulars the more develop more more evidence, there will be cases brought against those who incited this. and who inspired it and who argued for it, and one of the ironies of the modern world is when people commitop crimes like this they recluse themselves. and they advertise it and they make it easy for law enforcement to find them. now i laugh because what i was doing organized crime cases the government would try to record a wiretap and for organized crime and they would try to grow their way to make it difficult to do. nowadays criminals say look at me, they posted publicly. i think were to see a lot of cases come out of this i think that's what should happen. >> really yes it was pressing
that when you sell one of your concerns in this was that there was a version of this we just did not see on election day, but it really did come to fruition and exactly in the ways that you expressed. >> and i think that physical violence and an act of domestic terrorism will continue to be an issue in this country for the foreseeable future. now we've lived with us before, we had room versus way with waco and we had the oklahoma city bombing. in the '90s. and in oklahoma city, there was a bit of a reaction a room full showing against extremism because they saw this all about kids or blown up at a daycare center. it but unfortunately sometimes happens is, time passes people forget how bad these terrorists are and they start
to rub themselves up with extremism again and i just hope that if after january 6 of course a lot of these folks take a deep breath and realize that what they did was way, way beyond the line. >> where do you think we go from here? obvious it is going to be a lot of postmortem and departments and the election systems commission already scheduled a slate of hearings to take a look at this in audit the states. i mean is a lot of good stories there too but in terms of moving forward and in light of what happened did in light of the concerns you have what you think we need to do but better prepare cells moving for question work. >> well i think there is something we need to do is continue to work with state and local officials to shore up their defenses against cyber attacks on databases. in also in the accounting process itself. i also think that we need to help them employ more people and get more resources in
order to help with mail in ballots. voting and mailing is a very useful and i've done this in the past, but you are ideally going to want to have enough people to distribute the ballots, to verify them, and that ultimately to counthe them. in there may even be ways that we pay for ballots to be developed with more security using qr codes and some of the modern technologies that we have. so i think that's where we focus on in terms of moving forward to better secure our election process. >> that's great mike thanks very much. i think with all the time we have today. daughter rebecca would use. >> 's thank you so much secretary took off for joining us for the first session in our seriesan on elections and focused on election security and thank you so much elliot for moderate in conversation. again our goal of this series is to just to get the facts out in the sunlight you know i
take a lot of misinformation about everything ranging from security to how elections are operated. we are looking forward to sharing this episode with our communities as well as sharing the upcoming episode inn the series with georgia secretary of state brad rapids burger and michigan's darius date josh you webb benson and this will bee a great bipartisan discussion from two people on the ground and to key battleground states during the 2020 election. as well as don palmer for the election systems commission and thank you everybody for joining us today and for secretary chertoff on self talk focusing on elections. >> grates my pleasure. >> and thanks everybody for joining us. in just a reminder if you miss a part of this episode of salt talks and if you watch any of her previous episodes you can by the muffled accord backslash talks back schloss archives and you can sign up for all of our future talks at cell .org backslash talk. please follow us on social media we are on twitter