The former managers of Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns are leading a new initiative called “Defending Digital Democracy” in the hopes of preventing a repeat of Russia’s 2016 election interference. Robby Mook, Clinton’s 2016 campaign chief, and Matt Rhoades, who managed the 2012 run of GOP nominee Romney, are heading up the project at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs in one of the first major efforts outside government to grapple with 21st century hacking and propaganda operations — and ways to deter them. “The Russian influence campaign was one of the most significant national security events in the last decade, and it’s a near-certainty that all the other bad guys saw that and will try to do something similar in the United States in 2018 and 2020,” said Eric Rosenbach, co-director of the Belfer Center, which launches the initiative Tuesday.
The bipartisan project aims to develop ways to share key threat information with political campaigns and state and local election offices; create “playbooks” for election officials to improve cybersecurity; and forge strategies for the United States to deter adversaries from engaging in hacks and information operations, among other things.
Russian government hackers broke into the computers of the Democratic National Committee in 2015 and 2016, and some of that material was later leaked to WikiLeaks and published online, sowing discord within the Democratic Party. The hacks were part of a larger campaign to influence the election to undermine Clinton’s candidacy and help Donald Trump win the White House, according to a January report by U.S. intelligence agencies.