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By Charles A. Rubin

Despite Trump Dismissal Christopher Krebs is Still Getting It Right

December 2,2020

Policy Summary

On November 17, 2020 – two weeks after election day and ten days after Joe Biden was declared the winner of the Presidential race, Christopher Krebs, the head of Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), a division of the Department of Homeland Security, was fired in a tweet by President Trump. His termination came after Krebs vigorously defended the integrity of the election in the face of withering and unsubstantiated charges of election fraud and vote tampering from the Trump administration. Krebs has continued to defend his agency and provide evidence that the President’s claims of irregularities are false and themselves a threat to our election process.

Analysis

CISA, was founded in 2017 with the mission of defending the nation against cybersecurity threats from both foreign and domestic actors. By partnering with the Intelligence community, other Federal agencies, business, state and local governments they have provided a clearinghouse for information and tools to recognize threats, defend against intrusion and manipulation and repel attacks. They work with critical infrastructure agencies to help them prepare for the increasing scale and frequency of cyberattacks.

The agency’s original and only director until his termination earlier this month has been Christorpher Krebs. Krebs came to the agency with an impressive resume. He led Microsoft’s U.S. policy work on cybersecurity and technology issues. Krebs had previously worked in the Bush administration and written extensively on internet and network security. He was confirmed unanimously by the Senate for Directorship of CISA.

In regards to elections, though, Kreb’s took a decidedly nontechnical approach. He determined early on that the best way to defend elections was to ensure that a paper trail of votes existed. In 2016 only 65% of voting systems produced a paper record of a ballot. In 2020 that number had increased to 95%. Having this manual record ensured that in battleground states, like Georgia and Wisconsin, hand tallies could be conducted affirming the results of the machine counts further providing confidence that this most unusual election was conducted fairly and accurately. He established close collaboration with Secretaries of State, local and county election officials to discuss best practices and coordinate findings. They were instrumental in helping to roll out secure mail-in voting programs contrary to the President’s disparagement of them.

Despite the President’s efforts to cast doubt on the election, his action early in his administration in creating CISA and installing a well respected practitioner at its helm ensured that the taint of foreign influence in the election was far less likely.

As election day drew closer, Krebs realized that misinformation campaigns were the larger threat. In a brilliant move CISA created RumorControl.gov to bring to light false narratives and debunk election misinformation that was being spread by foreign actors such as Iran and even from the President’s Twitter feed. This ultimately led to his dismissal.

The nation owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to Christopher Krebs and to the many unsung election workers who worked tirelessly for many months to ensure that the election ran smoothly. There will always be actors or organizations that work to undermine the process but there are, thankfully, many other that put aside partisanship to ensure that the votes are counted and results are defended.

Resistance Resources

  1. AccessNow provides resources on keeping the internet safe and open and monitoring elections around the world.orld.
  2. The Center for Digital Democracy’s mission is to ensure that digital technologies serve and strengthen democratic values, institutions and processes. CDD strives to safeguard privacy and civil and human rights, as well as to advance equity, fairness, and community.
  3. The Voter Protection Program advances legal strategies and recommendations to protect the vote and make sure every vote is counted
  4. CISA’s RumorControl.gov continues to debunk misinformation about the 2020 Presidential Campaign.
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