Transcript: CISA Director Jen Easterly on "Face the Nation," Oct. 30, 2022
The following is a transcript of an interview with Jen Easterly, the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, that aired Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022, on "Face the Nation."
MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to Jen Easterly, the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, also known as CISA. That's the Homeland Security agency tasked with securing America's cybersecurity infrastructure and coordinating with states on election security, and you're gonna be very busy. I'm glad you're here with us today.
JEN EASTERLY, DIRECTOR OF THE CYBERSECURITY AND INFRASTRUCTURE SECURITY AGENCY: Great to be here.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about this bulletin first off. It warns domestic violent extremists may view election-related infrastructure personnel and voters as attractive targets. Are you aware of immediate and credible threats?
EASTERLY: No. Let me be very clear at the top. We have no information about specific or credible threats to disrupt or compromise election infrastructure. I want that to be very clear. We are putting out information, like the warnings that you mentioned, to make sure that state and local election officials have the information that they need to protect their voting systems and their election infrastructure. That said, Margaret, it is a very complex threat environment. You have cyber threats, you have insider threats, you have rampant disinformation. And yes, very worryingly, you have threats of harassment, intimidation and violence against election officials, polling places and voters. Let's be really clear. That has to stop. It is unacceptable behavior, it's undemocratic. And we all need to work together to ensure that this is a safe and secure election.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And it is the states that administer the election. You are providing support to them. What is the election day plan for security, and then communication? What are we going to hear and see?
EASTERLY: So, on election day actually, we at CISA are going to be in our own operation center. We're going to have federal government partners, private sector partners there, and then we're going to be in direct communication with all of the state and local election officials whose job it is to run and administer elections. We're going to be working to share information, and we're going to be working to be able to respond to anything that happens. But remember, at the end of the day, the relationship between local officials and local law enforcement is incredibly important. And I was really encouraged by the opinion piece that came out yesterday with the sheriff in Massachusetts, one in Colorado, talking about the fact that ensuring election security is a nonpartisan issue, and threats to election officials have to stop. So, that connectivity at the local level, the information sharing, the planning and exercising that's happening is really important to ensuring security at the- at the polling place and at the ballot box.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We talk a lot about rhetoric and the risk of triggering violence. And social media is a place where false information often spreads. So, I want to ask you about what's happening now at Twitter. It's now privately owned by billionaire Elon Musk. This morning, he tweeted a conspiracy theory about Nancy Pelosi's husband. Given how charged our environment is, are you concerned about how this platform might change and that it's going to make your job more difficult?
EASTERLY: Well, first of all, horrific attack on Mr. Pelosi, and thoughts and prayers go to their family. That is a decision that social media companies that Twitter will make. They make their own decisions based on terms of service. I am laser focused–
MARGARET BRENNAN: This is the owner himself tweeting this out.
EASTERLY: I am laser focused on the next nine days and the time that comes after elections on doing everything we can to ensure security. I do want to be very clear on this, though, Margaret. These elections, election officials, these are not faceless backroom bureaucrats, right? These are our relatives, our friends, our neighbors. They're in our community. They are dedicated public servants that are working day in and day out to ensure the security of elections, and they deserve not just our support, but our admiration and respect, and they deserve to be safe. And we all need to be responsible about ensuring that's a safe and secure environment.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Which is why I'm asking you about the place where these conspiracy theories spread. The FBI report, when we looked at it in terms of those direct threats to election workers, highlighted Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Wisconsin as places where voter intimidation and threats to election workers have been seen. Are these areas of greatest concern for you?
EASTERLY: Concerned across the board. We have cyber threats from nation states and cyber criminals. You have insider threats. You have physical threats, as we talked about, and then you have disinformation. So, disinformation, foreign influence that can be used to sow discord, that can undermine confidence in election integrity and that can be used to incite violence. So, what are we doing? We're doing a couple things. First of all, we're putting out information about tactics and disinformation and how to build resilience against disinformation. We have a rumor versus reality site that's basically election literacy. But most importantly, we are amplifying the voices of local and state election officials. They are the trusted voices that understand how elections work. If anybody has questions about voting or what -- how it all works, you should go to their local- local election officials.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So, that's who they should be following on Twitter and social media–
EASTERLY: –those are the experts.
MARGARET BRENNAN: –Find out who your local election official is and follow their account?
EASTERLY: Exactly. Exactly. And you know, I should point out, the National Association of Secretaries of State, nass.org. TrustedInfo2022, a great source for information, as well as the National Association of Election Directors, nased.org, frequently asked questions, that's the best- best place to go. They know how elections happen. If you've seen one state in an election, you've seen one state. It's actually surprisingly technical and complicated, and that's why I welcome people asking questions, you know. The beauty of democracy is that it's participatory. We can all have a role. So, volunteer, be a poll worker, ask questions. The more transparency, the better.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Before I let you go, I want to ask you about the foreign threat and 2016 Russia probed voter registration logs. We know there are warnings about what China is doing right now. How effective has this campaign by Beijing been, and are there other state actors or non-state actors you're concerned about?
EASTERLY: Yeah, we've seen Russia, we've seen Iran, we've seen China use the playbook for influence operations. That's why it's so important that Americans realize that they need to build resilience against that. If you see information that's on the internet, you're not sure whet- whether it's true, be critical about it, ask questions, look at the source, investigate it and don't spread that information any more broadly and give- basically give foreign adversaries a chance to manipulate Americans and to sow discord and to create lack of confidence in our elections. But, I want to be very, very clear. I have confidence in the elections that are going to be run because of the massive amount of work that's been done across the federal government, state and local election officials with election vendors to put multiple, multiple layers of resilience and security controls in place. I am confident that elections will be safe and secure, and the American people should have confidence in the integrity of elections when they go to the ballot box when they cast their vote.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Good luck to you. It will be a busy next few days and weeks.
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