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Maine senators react to decision to stop briefing intelligence committees on election security

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence will no longer brief Congress in person on election security over alleged leak concerns
Credit: Photos: AP

WASHINGTON D.C., DC — The Office of the Director of National Intelligence will no longer offer in-person briefings to congressional intelligence committees about election security and foreign election interference, according to a congressional official briefed on the matter.

The decision by the Trump administration to halt in-person briefings on foreign election interference stemmed in part from concerns over leaks, a DNI official told NBC News.

On Saturday, Maine Senator Susan Collins issued a statement on the matter. Collins says, "It is unacceptable for the DNI to refuse to brief the Intelligence Committees on election security, and it runs counter to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s public commitment on August 7th to provide classified election threat updates.  The DNI must remain a committed partner to safeguard our elections.”

According to NBC News, although the committees will still have access to classified written intelligence reports, the elimination of in-person briefings means committee members will not be able to question officials about the nuances and meanings behind the written product. 

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Maine Senator Angus King also issued a statement regarding the decision. Kings says:

"The idea that the Office of the Director of National Intelligence would stop briefing Congress on foreign threats to our elections is an outrage, full stop.

America’s election – indeed, our foundation of Democracy itself – is under threat as we face weaponized disinformation from global foes around the planet. To stifle and limit the American peoples’ awareness of this fact cannot be explained – or allowed. In his Senate testimony, DNI Director John Ratcliffe alleged that protecting election integrity was going to be a priority; I call on him to stand by those words and disavow these reported plans to short circuit one of the most important roles of his office.

The Director’s stated intention to only provide the Congress written updates is flatly insufficient. I have never been at a Congressional hearing where members’ questions failed to elicit important information not contained in pre-filed written testimony, and this includes our recent hearing with the Director on this very subject. The only way we can effectively defend ourselves from foreign interference with our elections is for the public to be informed of these activities in real time. Anything less is a dereliction of our duty to the American people.

It’s important to note how we got here and what we know on a consensus level free of politics. On a bipartisan basis, the Intelligence Committee found rampant, harmful interference in the 2016 election, our Committee’s report last week confirmed this threat and laid the stakes for this year. I welcomed the recent openness from the National Counterintelligence and Security Center to share its analysis and threat assessments surrounding this year’s election. It seemed to demonstrate that we all realize we are in this together, and that the only chance to minimize damage done is through more information, not less.

The Intelligence Community’s mission is to do incredibly exhaustive, frequently dangerous collection and analysis and present their findings to decision-makers. But every four years, the decision-makers that the Intelligence Community serve are the American voters who must be fully informed, without sacrificing sources or methods.

I call on my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to condemn this dangerous decision. My hope in the coming days is that Director Ratcliffe will reconsider, but given the track record from the current administration, I am not optimistic.”