This interview was conducted, edited, and condensed by Lars Trodson.
Congressman Jim Langevin, D-R.I., is the co-chair and co-founder of the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus. He has written to House Speaker Paul Ryan asking Ryan to appoint a Select Committee on Cybersecurity, given the concern over possible Russian interference in the recent Presidential election. We checked in with Langevin to discuss his concerns.
Q: There has been a lot of talk about cybersecurity and the hacking that may have impacted this year’s election. Do you personally believe that our electoral system was hacked during this cycle?
A: Let’s break this down to three things. There is the issue of the alleged Russian attempts to compromise our voter registration system. Then there is our election system that counts the votes on election day. Three, was there a Russian or foreign entity that impacted our elections by hacking into email accounts and then sending those to Wikileaks, which then sent them out to the world?
Clearly the intelligence community is pretty unanimous there were Russian attempts to hack into our voter registrations systems. We don’t believe anything was compromised that would undermine confidence in the election system itself. But our intelligence community and Homeland Security believe there were Russian attempts to do that, to clearly undermine that.
Q: Do you personally believe the Russians were involved?
A: I do believe that they were poking around to get into voter registration systems. It’s unclear as to how effective that was at the end of the day, to cast a cloud over it, if you will.
In terms of the election, we don’t have any evidence — on Election Day — that there was an attempt to meddle with the vote count. We have a disconnected system. It’s diverse, it’s not co-ordinated. Most states don’t have a statewide voter election system. It’s town by town, city by city, or even the county may be responsible for its own voting equipment. There are multiple election systems and none of them are linked to the internet. There is no way to break into the voting system.
It’s early to prejudge that the Russians were successful at influencing the outcome of the election. This is what we need to confirm. Looking at everything, I have confidence that the vote count is accurate, but this is really unprecedented. I’ve never seen anything on this scale before, that a foreign power used this type of capability to influence the outcome of an election. But we have to understand all the facts. We have to make sure it never happens again. This is a new attack vector that many people did not anticipate happening, but we need to find out who is involved and hold them accountable. This is why I have called for a Select Committee to investigate those Russian attempts.
Q: Do you think the election results are credible?
A: Yes. I may not like the outcome, but yes.
Q: Do you think there are other entities involved besides Russia?
A: I think we should look at everything. I have not seen anything that would indicate it was anyone other than the Russians, but this is what a Select Committee would look at: Look at all information, classified and open source. They should evaluate everything and whatever those findings are, make them available to the American people. I want everything to be transparent for the American people.
Q: Did the Obama Administration react strongly enough?
A: We’re in uncharted territory, but I always like a stronger response than what the President had, but he said the U.S. will respond at a time and place of our choosing. Some of that response may be known and some of it may not be known.
Q: Is there anything that you could be doing, with the committees you sit on, to look at this concurrently with a Select Committee?
A: It depends on the route the leadership in congress goes. It’s unclear who will do the review. There are 80 committees or subcommittees that this involves. This cuts across jurisdictional lines, so we need to have a bipartisan committee that cuts across lines, to look at information both classified and open source to get a full understanding of what happened.
Q: I think you touched on this, but we can’t overestimate how serious this is.
A: That’s right.
Q: How quickly would you like to start looking into this?
A: Immediately. As soon as the new Congress comes back and I will be all too happy to have the Speaker announce the Select Committee, and I would like to be a part of it.
Q: Is there anything we haven’t touched on that we should mention?
A: I guess the only thing I would underscore is that this is a serious issue, a big deal, it’s unprecedented and we need to understand how it happened and who is responsible and take the necessary steps to send a signal that it won’t be tolerated. We don’t want this to go unanswered.