Fifteen bipartisan intelligence and foreign policy experts – including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and former 9/11 Commission Vice Chair and Congressman Lee Hamilton – issued a statement supporting the creation of an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate foreign interference in last year’s US presidential election.
To this end, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), ranking member of the CIA Subcommittee of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, along with Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform last week introduced the Protecting Our Democracy Act (HR 6447), which was referred to the to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and so far has 195 cosponsors.
The bill would create a 12-member, bipartisan, independent commission empowered to interview witnesses, obtain documents, issue subpoenas and receive public testimony to examine attempts by the Russian government and others to use electronic means to influence, interfere with or sow distrust in [the 2016] elections. The commission — which also would examine similar efforts by any other foreign governments or entities — would issue a final report with recommendations for future security protections to Congress and the president within 18 months of the bill’s enactment.”
“Now more than ever, we must create an independent, bipartisan commission to fully investigate all Russian involvement in the hacking of our democracy … If we are to restore confidence in our democratic institutions, we need an external panel of trusted experts to rise above partisan rancor and make a full, transparent report to the American people, along with recommendations on how to ensure this never happens again,” Swalwell said.
Swalwell said, “Experts agree, the specter of meddling in our elections by Russia or any other foreign entity requires immediate, full investigation in an independent and bipartisan manner. The underpinnings of our democratic process are under electronic attack. Congressional committees can investigate too, but only an independent commission can rise above the perception of political bias in rendering a complete report on what happened and making recommendations on how to ensure it never happens again.”
The intelligence and foreign-policy experts’ statement said while meddling in the US election is the most significant the Unite States has ever seen in a national election, it has been occurring against our allies for decades. “That it was perpetuated against us demonstrates a bold escalation of interference that must be understood and stymied,” they wrote.
“No American should tolerate these types of intrusions into the bedrock of our democracy,” their statement said, noting, “Our elections should always belong to us. When foreign interference occurs, both major political parties should unite and declare they will not tolerate it,” also noting that, despite the conclusions of 17 of our intelligence agencies, some Americans still doubt Russian responsibility for this year’s cyberattacks.
“Such doubts only reinforce why an independent inquiry should occur outside of Congress,” they wrote. “[T]hat is the only way to ensure that the investigation is comprehensive and not siloed within a certain congressional committee’s jurisdiction. This inquiry should occur immediately. Anything less than a swift investigation will leave us vulnerable to another attack and, possibly worse, permit and normalize future interference.”