The power grid, Wall Street, and presidential elections as “critical infrastructure”

The Department of Homeland Security is considering oversight of the critical infrastructure of the presidential election:

“We should carefully consider whether our election system, our election process, is critical infrastructure like the financial sector, like the power grid,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said.

“There’s a vital national interest in our election process, so I do think we need to consider whether it should be considered by my department and others critical infrastructure,” he said at media conference earlier this month hosted by the Christian Science Monitor…

DHS describes it this way on their website: “There are 16 critical infrastructure sectors whose assets, systems, and networks, whether physical or virtual, are considered so vital to the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination thereof.”…

Johnson also said that the big issue at hand is that there isn’t a central election system since the states run elections. “There’s no one federal election system. There are some 9,000 jurisdictions involved in the election process,” Johnson said.

The term infrastructure usually brings to mind public services like electricity, water, and transportation. This is a broader definition that hints at what the government think is essential to American society. Wall Street as infrastructure? If something crashed for a significant amount of time – whether through error or malfunction or nefarious intervention – the ripple effects could be huge. If the national election system couldn’t be trusted, it could have significant implications for a democracy.

See the full list of the 16 areas identified as critical infrastructure – including food and agriculture as well as critical manufacturing – at the DHS website. I wonder what other sectors could be added in coming years…

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