It shouldn't come as a surprise at this point that Russian penetration into American voting systems was much more thorough than previously suspected, as former Obama Homeland Security Director Jeh Johnson warned, but it also shouldn't come as a surprise that several of the 21 targeted states are even afraid to admit their systems were compromised, let alone start working to protect their systems from intruders in 2018 elections.
The U.S. official in charge of protecting American elections from hacking says the Russians successfully penetrated the voter registration rolls of several U.S. states prior to the 2016 presidential election.
In an exclusive interview with NBC News, Jeanette Manfra, the head of cybersecurity at the Department of Homeland Security, said she couldn't talk about classified information publicly, but in 2016, "We saw a targeting of 21 states and an exceptionally small number of them were actually successfully penetrated."
Jeh Johnson, who was DHS secretary during the Russian intrusions, said, "2016 was a wake-up call and now it's incumbent upon states and the Feds to do something about it before our democracy is attacked again."
That's the part we knew. What we didn't know is that states still haven't done anything about it.
NBC News reached out to the 21 states that were targeted. Five states, including Texas and California, said they were never attacked.
Manfra said she stands by the list, but also called it a "snapshot in time with the visibility that the department had at that time."
Many of the states complained the federal government did not provide specific threat details, saying that information was classified and state officials did not have proper clearances. Manfra told us those clearances are now being processed
Other states that NBC contacted said they were still waiting for cybersecurity help from the federal government. Manfra said there was no waiting list and that DHS will get to everyone.
Some state officials had opposed Johnson's designation of electoral systems as critical infrastructure, viewing it a federal intrusion. Johnson said that any state officials who don't believe the federal government should be providing help are being "naïve" and "irresponsible to the people that [they're] supposed to serve."
Any state election official who admits their state's elections were compromised is basically done for. We're still playing CYA games more than a year later, and time is running out ahead of November's elections. Primaries are only a few months away in some cases.
But states are still pointing fingers. We're in so much trouble it makes my head hurt. The Russians can basically do whatever they want to our election systems at this point, and will.