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US Election, Presidential Transition Will Be 'OK,' Intelligence Chief Says


FILE - Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 26, 2015. Clapper told a Washington gathering on Thursday that U.S. intelligence agencies are "a pillar of stability."

FILE - Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 26, 2015. Clapper told a Washington gathering on Thursday that U.S. intelligence agencies are "a pillar of stability."

Growing concerns about the contentious U.S. presidential race, fueled by doubts about the candidates' qualifications and even their own rhetoric, have not gone unnoticed by the U.S. intelligence community.

But the top U.S. intelligence official wants Americans and people around the world to know there is no need to worry.

"A lot of people out there are nervous about what will happen, and understandably so," Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Thursday. "I think it will be OK."

"In contrast to any uncertainty surrounding an election and the transition to the next administration, one constant in national security are the people of the intelligence community," Clapper told an audience at the Capitol Visitors Center in Washington, calling the collection of U.S. intelligence agencies "a pillar of stability."

Clapper also said the U.S. intelligence community would be "heavily involved in making sure [the next president] is informed about our world and, hopefully, is ready to make decisions."

FILE - Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton checks her mobile phone after addressing the U.N. Security Council, March 12, 2012.

FILE - Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton checks her mobile phone after addressing the U.N. Security Council, March 12, 2012.

Russian hacking

There have been persistent questions about both major party candidates, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump, regarding national security.

Clinton has been heavily criticized for her handling of sensitive and classified emails while serving as U.S. secretary of state. Intelligence officials and critics said her use of a private email server potentially made those emails more vulnerable to hacking.

Trump has been criticized for refusing to accept the findings of the U.S. intelligence community, which concluded this month that Russia was responsible for hacking the email of some U.S. political organizations, as well as high-profile individuals. Some have also criticized him for using language that seemed to encourage Russia to carry out additional cyberattacks on the U.S.

On Thursday, Clapper defended the U.S. intelligence assessment, though he admitted the intelligence community statement this month that pointed the finger at Russia was "pretty unusual."

"We wouldn't have made it unless we were very confident," he said, noting the U.S. had "sufficient evidence, both forensic and otherwise."

FILE - Voting booths are ready for the New York primary elections at a polling station in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, April 19, 2016. U.S. voters go to the polls November 8 to elect a new president and members of Congress.

FILE - Voting booths are ready for the New York primary elections at a polling station in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, April 19, 2016. U.S. voters go to the polls November 8 to elect a new president and members of Congress.

Election hacking

In the meantime, concerns about attempts to hack into U.S. election systems have prompted more than 30 states to reach out to the Department of Homeland Security for assistance.

But while such cyberattacks could cause some problems, intelligence officials say there is no overall threat to the U.S. election process.

"This election will happen on November 8," Clapper said. "We assess it would be very difficult for someone, anyone, to alter our actual ballot counts with a cyber intrusion, particularly since voting machines aren't connected to the internet."

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