Army combat veteran to take over key election security role working with state, local officials

Army combat veteran to take over key election security role working with state, local officials

30 Jun    AP, Finance News, PMN Business

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An Army combat veteran with extensive cybersecurity and counterterrorism experience is taking over as one of the nation’s top election security officials, the director of the U.S. Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency announced Friday.

In the position, Cait Conley will coordinate with federal, state and local officials responsible for ensuring elections are secure ahead of the 2024 presidential election. CISA Director Jen Easterly said Conley’s national security experience made her “ideally suited to help those state and local officials carrying out elections in every community in America.”

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Conley takes over duties from Kim Wyman, who will depart the agency at the end of July to join the private sector. Wyman, a former top election official in Washington state, joined the agency after the 2020 election in which CISA leadership was blasted by former President Donald Trump for countering false claims about the vote.

Trump ultimately fired then-CISA Director Chris Krebs after a group of federal, state and local officials issued a statement nine days after the election saying there was “no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes or was in any way compromised.”

At the time, Wyman replaced Matt Masterson, who had served as the election security lead under Krebs. During their tenure, Masterson and Krebs were credited with building up the agency, which was created in 2018, and earning trust among state and local officials who were initially wary of the federal effort.

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Easterly, who was confirmed by the Senate in July 2021, brought in Wyman, a Republican state official who was an outspoken defender of election officials and the work they did during the 2020 election.

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Heading into the 2024 election, officials face complex threats as they look to protect voting systems while fighting misinformation that has been undermining public confidence in elections. Threats include hostile foreign nations, ransomware gangs and others seeking to interfere in U.S. elections.

Conley and Easterly have extensive military backgrounds. Both are graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and spent years in the Army. Prior to her appointment, Easterly served as special assistant to President Barack Obama and senior director for counterterrorism.

Conley previously served as a director for counterterrorism on the National Security Council. She also was the executive director of the bipartisan Defending Digital Democracy Project, based out of Harvard University’s Belfer Center. There, she led a team of experts in developing strategies to assist those working to protect elections.

“I am excited to return to the election security mission and build on the incredible progress CISA has made over the last several years,” Conley said.

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Cassidy reported from Atlanta.

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