December 19th, 2016
Dear Senators Murray and Cantwell,
Thank you for your years of service to the people of Washington State and to the American people. Your dedication to the public institutions that protect our most fundamental democratic values and our Constitutional rights is needed now more than ever.
We, the undersigned Washington State Representatives and Senators, wish to express our deepest concerns about the potential scope and impact of digital attacks against American entities on American soil. We are calling on the United States Senate to protect and defend our nation against what appears to be a months-long, sustained cyber attack on our nation’s ability to conduct free and fair Presidential elections.
We all have a stake in protecting our digital networks from attack. Here in Washington, the legislative and executive branches have worked together to create an Office of the Chief Information Officer, whose director is responsible for protecting state-owned data and information technology systems and networks against cyber attacks. The Washington Office of the Secretary of State is responsible for coordinating with local election agencies and officials to ensure that technology used to process ballots and count votes is protected from cyber hacking in order to insure voter confidence in the integrity of our state’s elections. Additionally, state-level information technology professionals collaborate closely with federal and local authorities and private entities who share responsibilities for protecting data privacy as required under the federal Health Information Privacy Protection Act of 2013. The state’s Utilities and Transportation Commission is responsible for protecting the integrity and stability of our electric grid.
It is time to take deliberate and urgent steps and establish a U.S. Senate Select Committee to Investigate Actions by Foreign Entities to Conduct Cyber Attacks Against U.S. Targets of Interest During a Presidential Campaign.
This action has precedent. Former U.S. Senator Sam Ervin (D-North Carolina) introduced Senate Bill 60 in 1972, which established a select committee of the U.S. Senate, known as the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, consisting of 7 members, to conduct an investigation and study of the extent, if any, to which illegal, improper, or unethical activities were engaged in by any persons, acting either individually or in combination with others, in the Presidential election of 1972.
This action is justified. Due to warnings issued by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on October 7th, 2016 “to urge state and local election officials to be vigilant and seek cybersecurity assistance from DHS,” Washington State’s election agencies worked to protect our elections against potential cyber attacks or other interference. If we are to protect against future situations, we need to know whether such threats materialized and what steps we must take in our state to guard against foreign efforts to tamper with our elections. We rely on our federal agencies and officials to analyze and estimate foreign threats to U.S. national interests. Guidance from federal authorities will influence actions we must take here in Washington to protect our infrastructure against future threats. Therefore, any formal intelligence reporting, analysis, and findings issued by our intelligence community that indicate foreign attacks – physical or digital – on U.S. soil must be examined by a Senate Select Committee.
This action is an urgent national security imperative. Vital U.S. national interests are at stake. Here in Washington, we are working to ensure that we place the highest priority on data privacy while we also strengthen the integrity of the digital networks and technology that drive a 21st century economy. But we must rely on our intelligence professionals to identify, monitor, and assess threats to national infrastructure that may degrade, disrupt, or compromise critical infrastructure in our state. Since these same intelligence professionals have issued an assessment that a foreign power has engaged in sustained cyber attacks on American soil, we must learn more about the nature of these attacks. Do we know when the attacks started? Do we know if they are continuing? Do we know whether the targets already attacked are still under attack? Do we know whether other attacks are planned? Will we know when another wave of attacks is underway? Are there risks to critical digital networks and data in Washington State? These questions – and many more – must be addressed by a Senate Select Committee.
This is a situation where vital national interests align with vital state interests. In order to protect the rights and freedoms of all Washingtonians, we must have a clear understanding of whether our state’s critical digital infrastructure is threatened by cyber attacks or already has been compromised.
Thank you for your attention to this matter. We stand ready to support your efforts and provide whatever information you may need to assist us in protecting the people of Washington State.
Representative Gael Tarleton, 36th LD