WASHINGTON — Seven freshman members of Congress unveiled Task Force Sentry, a bipartisan group of lawmakers who have been, for the past eight weeks, working together behind closed doors to protect the U.S. political system from attack by foreign adversaries. The task force is led by Reps. Elissa Slotkin (MI-08), Anthony Gonzalez (OH-16), Abigail Spanberger (VA-07), Lauren Underwood (IL-14), Mikie Sherill (NJ-11), Chrissy Houlahan (PA-06), Xochitl Torres Small (NM-02).
This group of freshmen from a variety of backgrounds, including national security, technology and law, has adopted a unique mission: to introduce legislation that closes holes in our laws that allow for foreign interference and financial influence in the U.S. political process. In short, their mission is to protect our system for the 2020 elections.
Task Force Sentry members have long held a commitment to securing the U.S. political process against foreign adversaries. However, upon the release of the Mueller report –– which detailed Russia’s robust, concerted effort to wage information warfare on the U.S. political system –– the bipartisan group assembled with a shared mission of addressing the issues that were not receiving due attention: preventing this type of attack from foreign adversaries.
“We believe that protecting our country from foreign adversaries should never be partisan,” Task Force Sentry members said. “We come from different backgrounds, but agree it is our duty to understand and respond to threats when we see them –– and that is what we have been doing for the last eight weeks, to develop new legislation and concrete recommendations on how to prevent any foreign adversary from attempting to influence the U.S. political system again.”
Through briefings and meetings with issue experts over the course of the last eight weeks, members have identified vulnerabilities in our political system, and are currently working to finalize legislation to address them by:
1) Deterring the originator — making it more difficult for foreign entities to influence Americans;
2) Requiring enhanced disclosure — mandating that individuals or entities receiving foreign funds disclose where those funds come from;
3) Preventing foreign financing from supporting campaigns;
4) Defining the roles and responsibilities of social media companies to prevent foreign government entities from using their platforms to interfere in U.S. political processes;
5) Establishing ongoing monitoring, analysis and enforcement mechanisms to identify threats and tools to prevent foreign interference through information operations.
“Even well before the Mueller report was released, we have known that a foreign adversary attempted to attack our political system and has continued to try to do so again,” Rep. Slotkin said. “As a former CIA analyst and Pentagon official who represents a state that was disproportionately targeted by Russian information warfare in 2016, I am proud that Task Force Sentry has taken up the critical mission of preventing attacks on our political system by a foreign adversary. This is not a partisan issue. It is a national security issue, it’s an American issue, and it is our responsibility to take action.”
“Coming from a background in the tech industry, I am struck by the vulnerabilities exposed in social media platforms through the disinformation campaign propagated by Russia over the years. There is a real threat that this could be replicated by any group or hostile nation with a mind to influence our public discourse, and I firmly believe that we as a Congress need to come together in a bipartisan manner to produce new ideas that will protect our nation now and into the future,” said Rep. Gonzalez.
“During a time marked by massive disinformation campaigns and hostile attacks against election systems across the globe—including potentially from adversarial actors like Iran, North Korea, and China—it’s critical that the American people have accurate and up-to-date information about the threats we face,” Rep. Spanberger said. “This Task Force is focused on gathering information from experts, working together across the partisan divide to advance effective policy, and helping to protect the public from disinformation. As a former CIA officer, I recognize the critical threats across the cyber landscape, and I’m proud to stand alongside my fellow Task Force members as we look to prevent future attacks, including those that could compromise the integrity of our elections.”
“A foreign adversary attacked our democracy in 2016 and is working to do it again—yet, almost nothing has been done to protect our future elections,” Rep. Underwood said. “When I took office, I swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Every person who took that oath has the patriotic duty to put politics aside and get to work to ensure that Americans can participate in our democracy free from foreign interference. Election security is national security and the next election is just around the corner, we do not have time to wait.”
“Protecting our country from foreign interference is never a partisan issue. I worked to do so as a Russian Policy Officer in the U.S. Navy and I am continuing that work with members in Congress on both sides of the aisle,” Rep. Sherrill said. “Our democracy rests on fair elections. That is why the members of Task Force Sentry have worked so hard to study the implications of the Russians’ attempts to influence our elections, and the methods they used to do so. We are now working on legislation to protect the 2020 elections and to provide national security leadership on this critical issue.”
“The Mueller report was explicit in its investigation and revelation of a foreign adversary intervening in our democratic processes and electoral systems,” Rep. Houlahan said. “A threat to our elections is and should be treated as a threat to our country. I am proud to have helped launch the bipartisan Task Force Sentry to work to prevent such interference from happening again. This is not partisan; it’s about protecting the democracy for all of us.”
“Maintaining the integrity of our elections should never be a partisan issue. Foreign governments attempted to interfere in our elections in the past and they will try to do it again,” Rep. Torres Small said. “More than ever, we must focus on protecting the security and integrity of our elections by addressing the weaknesses within our elections systems while adapting to changing tactics of our foreign adversaries who wish to compromise our democracy.”