On Tuesday evening, President Donald Trump fired Chris Krebs, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), just days after CISA called the recent presidential election the “most secure in American history.”
In a tweet posted the same day, the President justified his removal of Krebs:
"The recent statement by Chris Krebs on the security of the 2020 Election was highly inaccurate, in that there were massive improprieties and fraud - including dead people voting, Poll Watchers not allowed into polling locations, “glitches” in the voting machines which changed...
...votes from Trump to Biden, late voting, and many more. Therefore, effective immediately, Chris Krebs has been terminated as Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency."
Krebs responded cordially to his firing:
“Honored to serve. We did it right. Defend Today, Secure Tomrorow [sic]. #Protect2020”
For nearly one month, under Krebs’ direction, CISA has batted away rumors about the US presidential election on a website that the agency officially launched on October 20, dubbed “Rumor Control.” The website has gained enormous popularity, often ranking as the number one most-visited page that is owned and operated by the Department of Homeland Security, where CISA is situated.
Rumor Control provided election fact checks for cybersecurity and non-cybersecurity issues. Some of the website’s recent statements include:
- Robust safeguards including canvassing and auditing procedures help ensure the accuracy of official election results.
- Voter registration list maintenance and other election integrity measures protect against voting illegally on behalf of deceased individuals.
- Election results reporting may occur more slowly than prior years. This does not indicate there is any problem with the counting process or results. Official results are not certified until all validly cast ballots have been counted, including ballots that are counted after election night.
Though Krebs received the brunt of the President’s ire, he and CISA were far from alone in their evaluation of the election’s security.
Earlier this week, 59 election security researchers and computer science experts published a joint letter rejecting the President’s recent claims of election fraud.
“We are aware of alarming assertions being made that the 2020 election was ‘rigged’ by exploiting technical vulnerabilities. However, in every case of which we are aware, these claims either have been unsubstantiated or are technically incoherent,” the group of experts said in a letter published online. “To our collective knowledge, no credible evidence has been put forth that supports a conclusion that the 2020 election outcome in any state has been altered through technical compromise.”
Further, 16 federal prosecutors tasked specifically with catching election tampering told Attorney General William Barr last week that they found no such evidence.
Despite these mounting facts, Krebs’ departure was largely anticipated. According to an exclusive report by Reuters last week, Krebs had told several associates that he expected to be fired after his agency refused to remove factual information from Rumor Control, as requested by The White House:
“In particular, one person said, the White House was angry about a CISA post rejecting a conspiracy theory that falsely claims an intelligence agency supercomputer and program, purportedly named Hammer and Scorecard, could have flipped votes nationally. No such system exists, according to Krebs, election security experts and former US officials.”
A bipartisan selection of Congress members and a handful of cybersecurity researchers lamented the firing of Krebs.
Matt Blaze, election security expert and McDevitt Chair of Computer Science and Law at Georgetown University, said on Twitter that “protecting our national infrastructure is a vitally important and extremely difficult job, one Chris Krebs performed with both extraordinary integrity and exceptional skill.”
“Firing him, especially so abruptly, has made our country less safe,” Blaze said.
Republican US Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska spoke similarly: “Chris Krebs did a really good job — as state election officials all across the nation will tell you — and he obviously should not be fired.”
Democratic Representatives Bennie Thompson of Mississippi and Lauren Underwood of Illinois—who respectively serve as chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security and chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Innovation—spoke far more harshly.
“The fact is that, since Election Day, President Trump has sought to delegitimize the election results by engaging in a disinformation campaign that could shatter public confidence in our elections for generations,” the two said in a joint statement. “Director Krebs put national security ahead of politics and refused to use his position to do the President’s bidding, so the President fired him.”