Cybersecurity

CISA doesn't plan to tackle COVID vaccine disinformation

contact tracing app (Redkey USB/Shutterstock.com) 

Brandon Wales, acting director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said he does not view the agency as the right entity to counter anticipated disinformation surrounding a coronavirus vaccine.

"The federal government may not always be the best option, the right trusted voice on these kinds of challenging, divisive issues, and certainly for CISA, I'm just not sure that the cybersecurity agency is going to be a trusted voice when it comes to things like vaccine safety," Wales said during a Dec. 3 Aspen Institute event.

"There are other people in the government who are better positioned to provide accurate information" about a new vaccine, he continued.

Wales, a non-political career official who was serving as executive director, became CISA's acting director last month after President Donald Trump fired Chris Krebs. Matthew Travis, the former deputy director and the person who was first in line to succeed Krebs, resigned shortly thereafter.

Travis said earlier this week that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf told him the White House would have blocked him from leading CISA if he had remained in his post.

CISA, which is among the newest agency in the federal government, has received a national spotlight in the run-up to and weeks following the election due to its "Rumor Control" page, a database of conspiracy theories and myths about the country's election systems alongside facts to counter them.

CISA's leaders have stood by the fact the page was designed with foreign adversaries such as Iran in mind, but the webpage garnered national attention because it was debunking some misinformation coming directly from the White House and the president.

For now, Wales said, the plan is to keep it running until the end of this cycle which is expected to conclude in early January when two runoff elections for Senate races in Georgia are held.

Wales also said the broad statement put out last month by a group of election security officials has at times been misconstrued. He noted that protecting the election from fraud is the Justice Department's role.

"I think there's times when our statement has been misconstrued to say that there were no problems with the election. That it was fraud free and that's just not the case. We do believe it was secure from external interference which is our mandate and we're proud of the work we did to get to that point," he said.

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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