Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp in a staff meeting at his office in the Capitol. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Homeland Security requested documents over alleged hack in Georgia

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security requested documents Tuesday from state officials after they alleged that the federal agency tried to hack into the Georgia’s voter registration system.

The request from the agency’s inspector general is the first after Georgia congressman Jody Hice and Utah congressman Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, requested an independent review.

They made that request after Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp said the agency had not been forthcoming in explaining what happened. Kemp said last month that security scans had found several attempted intrusions, which the state’s cyber security experts flagged as suspicious.

David Dove, the chief of staff and legal counsel in the Secretary of State’s Office, confirmed the request during a hearing Tuesday before the state House Science and Technology Committee.

Hice in a statement cheered the move, saying that “over the past few years, an influx of cyber attacks have caused incalculable damage to companies, governments, and individuals.

“Regardless of whether or not it was committed with malicious intent, any attempt to penetrate secure systems is cause for grave concern,” he said. “I’m pleased to hear that the inspector general has opened an independent investigation into Secretary Kemp’s allegations, and I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress and the new administration to ensure that our cyber infrastructure is fortified.”

Homeland Security officials have claimed a federal contractor based in Georgia used an agency computer to perform routine background checks of job applicants and that there was no malicious intent in the checks.

Kemp has been at odds with Homeland Security over other issues, including former agency head Jeh Johnson’s decision earlier this month to designate U.S. election systems as critical infrastructure. Kemp at the time called it a “provocative but predictable decision” and said he was “completely opposed to this blatant overreach and will continue to fight to keep election systems under the control of state government where it belongs.”

Dove said the state is among those requesting that the administration of President Donald Trump rescind the critical infrastructure designation. Some committee members, however, challenged Dove over what they said were Kemp’s politicizing of his disagreement with Homeland Security.

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