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Trump fires top DHS cyber official who debunked election misinformation

CISA chief Chris Krebs disusses the future of the agency at Auburn University Aug. 22 2019 

Chris Krebs discusses the future of CISA at an Auburn University event in Aug. 2019.

Chris Krebs, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, is the latest government official to be fired in a presidential tweet. Krebs, the first-ever director of CISA, led an aggressive post-election campaign to debunk misinformation about voter fraud, including theories the White House had been spreading.

President Donald Trump tweeted on the evening of Nov. 17 that a post-election statement from CISA declaring that the 2020 vote was the most secure" in American history was "highly inaccurate" and fired Krebs in a subsequent tweet.

Krebs had led CISA in sharing information debunking various baseless conspiracy theories about election fraud, compromised voting machines, poll-watching improprieties and more. Krebs actions, including a Nov. 12 statement on the trustworthiness of the 2020 vote, led to speculation that the CISA director was slated for dismissal.

"Honored to serve. We did it right," Krebs tweeted from his personal account. "Defend Today. Secure Tomorrow," he said, quoting CISA's motto.

CISA's "Rumor Control" page offered a veritable database of debunked election misinformation. One such claim on the webpage concerned the idea that ballots were being cast on behalf of deceased individuals.

"Voter registration list maintenance and other election integrity measures protect against voting illegally on behalf of deceased individuals," according to the webpage.

Similar claims of voter fraud are being made by lawyers for the Trump campaign in Pennsylvania and Michigan courts. While the courts have largely rejected the post-election lawsuits, the contradictory nature of CISA's debunking had brought attention to the agency's chief.

Lawmakers were quick to condemn the firing.

"Chris Krebs is an extraordinary public servant and exactly the person American want protecting the security of our elections," Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence said in a statement on Tuesday night. "It speaks volumes that the president chose to fire him simply for telling the truth."

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Wash.), the House Intel chairman, said that, "It's pathetic but sadly predictable that upholding and protecting our democratic processes would be cause for firing."

"I think we are in a crisis with this firing," Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, said on CNN.

Reuters reported last week that Krebs had been telling associates he anticipated he would be fired not long after the election.

Krebs, a former Microsoft executive, was originally confirmed as undersecretary of the National Protection and Programs Directorate, a component of the Department of Homeland Security focused on defending U.S. critical physical and cyber infrastructure. NPPD was re-named and designated a standalone federal agency in November 2018 after President Donald Trump signed the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Act of 2018.

About the Author

Justin Katz covers cybersecurity for FCW. Previously he covered the Navy and Marine Corps for Inside Defense, focusing on weapons, vehicle acquisition and congressional oversight of the Pentagon. Prior to reporting for Inside Defense, Katz covered community news in the Baltimore and Washington D.C. areas. Connect with him on Twitter at @JustinSKatz.

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