Robby Mook says we have to work together to ensure 2016-style attack never happens again
He is teaming up with ex-Romney campaign manager on a center to share info on hacking
Editor’s Note: CNN political commentator Robby Mook ran the 2015-16 presidential campaign for Hillary Clinton and is now a senior fellow at Harvard University. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.
Spoiler alert: Foreign intervention in American politics is as old as our republic. John Adams warned about it in his inaugural address in 1797.
As far back as 2008, foreign hackers were infiltrating the campaigns, but you didn’t hear much about it.
That all changed last year when the Russians stole information from Democrats and pushed it out to the media in an especially dramatic fashion. It didn’t just inflict damage on Hillary Clinton; it further divided our political parties and got Americans angry … at each other. This is exactly what the Russians (and other foreign adversaries) wanted.
As Clinton’s campaign manager, I’m as angry and frustrated as anyone about what the Russians did. I’m equally frustrated by the Trump administration’s response. Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is vital, and I trust he will get to the bottom of what happened, but he can only illuminate the past. The rest of us will determine what happens in the future, and we have to work together now to make sure a 2016-style attack never happens again.
Unchecked, foreign meddling in our elections will get much worse since cyberspace provides an array of ways to undermine the integrity of elections. Most attention has gone to how foreign agents could break into voting machines and alter the outcome of an election, but it’s even easier to corrupt voting lists, leak embarrassing emails from election officials or generate fake ballot requests. Any one of these crimes could call the election into question and bring the democratic process to a standstill.
Plenty of ink has been spilled on cyber doomsday scenarios – the question is what we’re doing about it. That’s why I have joined with Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign manager, Matt Rhoades, and Eric Rosenbach, former Defense Department chief of staff, to launch a project called Defending Digital Democracy at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
Our mission is to bring Democrats and Republicans together with leaders in cybersecurity to make our elections and campaigns more secure.
Our commitment to bipartisanship isn’t just an exercise in kumbaya – it’s actually a critical component of the security strategy. In the banking, health care or retail sectors, all of which are prime targets for cybercriminals, even the most vicious competitors cooperate behind the scenes to share intelligence, because that’s the best way to catch criminals in real time and build better defenses. There’s no reason that Democrats and Republicans can’t take the same approach.
The good news is that the resources to get our elections more secure already exist. The project that Matt and I launched is creating an Information Sharing and Analysis Organization, or ISAO, for campaigns that’s modeled after similar organizations in the private sector and built with the help of experienced information security professionals from social media, banking, health care and cloud computing.
It will be available to all parties and candidates to warn about malicious activity and help make their systems more secure. The ISAO would be a resource for security technology, training, incident response and advocacy with industry and federal officials. We could do even more if Congress could create a framework for the federal government, states and campaigns to share intelligence and collaborate on security.
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In case you’re still cynical, bipartisan work on elections has a good track record. After long lines and administrative hiccups created unreasonable wait times in some states during the 2012 general election, President Barack Obama’s attorney, Bob Bauer, and Romney’s lawyer, Ben Ginsberg, launched the Presidential Commission on Election Administration that worked with Democrats, Republicans and nonpartisan election administrators to codify voluntary best practices already at work in many states. Lo and behold, average wait times in 2016 dropped.
As much as politics might divide them, Bauer and Ginsberg worked together to improve the democratic process for everyone. Matt and I are hoping to do the same.