Government officials and cybersecurity experts alike condemned President Trump’s firing of Christopher Krebs by tweet Tuesday, as the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) became the latest victim of the president’s housecleaning efforts after his failed bid at a second term.
Krebs was appointed by Trump in 2018 as the first director of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’s) CISA. However, he challenged the president by trying to debunk false claims Trump has made suggesting that the recent 2020 presidential election was rigged against him—the reason why Krebs was sacked, observers said.
In fact, the now former CISA chief—widely touted as non-partisan in how he approached his job–is widely credited with ensuring that the election was not tampered with by nation-state actors and remained secure for all voters, with the DHS last week calling it “the most secure in election history.”
Krebs knew his days were numbered once election results were tallied in favor of president-elect Joe Biden. He said last week that he expected to be fired after he delivered a secure presidential election that didn’t go in Trump’s favor and then refused to support the president’s claims of election fraud.
In an interview with CNN, ex-CIA director John Brennan, who served under President Barack Obama, said the firing of the “highly qualified and widely respected” Krebs was the result of a “vendetta” by a president who is “trying to steal the election back” from Biden.
“Donald Trump knows nothing about cybersecurity or technology and therefore he again continues to condemn those who say anything he disagrees with,” Brennan said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) echoed Brennan’s sentiments on Twitter, praising Krebs for working “diligently” to safeguard our elections. “Instead of rewarding this patriotic service, the President has fired Director Krebs for speaking truth to power & rejecting Trump’s campaign of election falsehoods,” she tweeted.
Jonathan Reiber, senior director for cybersecurity strategy and policy at security firm AttackIQ, said in an e-mail to Threatpost that it was no small feat that the 2020 election was secure and that this success was in part due to Krebs’ tireless and bipartisan work as CISA director.
Another cybersecurity expert expressed disappointment over Krebs’ “political, surreal and disheartening” dismissal, adding that the cybersecurity community as a whole finds it very worrying to their overall mission to identify and block the work of threat actors “to the best of our ability.”
“Chris Krebs and the CISA team have done a singularly brilliant job, and done it transparently, under what has been one of the most divisive and fraught election cycles in our country’s history,” Chloé Messdaghi, vice president of strategy for Point3 Security, said in an e-mail to Threatpost.
Krebs is just one in a line of administration dismissals President Trump has conducted—usually by an unceremonious tweet–since Biden was projected the winner of the election. Another CISA official—Krebs’ assistant director, Bryan Ware—also has been a casualty of post-election fallout. He was asked to resign early last week, a request Ware complied with two days later.
Those not directly involved with the security of the election, which Trump still refuses to concede, also have been unceremoniously ousted by the president. The list of officials he has dismissed or asked to resign since the election include: Defense Secretary Mark Esper; Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, sdministrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration; Bonnie Glick, deputy administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development; and Neil Chatterjee, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, among others.
California Congressman Ted Lieu, (D-Calif.) noted that since the president himself appointed Krebs, it’s highly unlikely that the cybersecurity expert would lie about the veracity and security of the election process.
U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, also backed the belief that Krebs was fired for telling the truth, saying the president’s move to fire him for this reason “speaks volumes.”
“Chris Krebs is an extraordinary public servant and exactly the person Americans want protecting the security of our elections,” Warner said in a statement.
Krebs’ work during his short time at the CISA extended beyond merely securing the election process by taking a more holistic approach to cybersecurity both within the federal government and among the general public.
Under his leadership, the CISA issued regular advisories about key vulnerabilities affecting ubiquitous software used by the U.S. government, ordering departments and agencies to update when necessary to remain secure. The agency also issued warnings when the administration became aware of nation-state-sponsored cyberthreats not only to government infrastructure but also the public as well.
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