Event Details


Thursday, Apr 25, 2019


12:15 pm


LBJ School of Public Affairs, SRH 3.124

Countering Adversary Attacks on Democracy and the Rule of Law

Countering Adversary Attacks on Democracy and the Rule of Law

Thursday, Apr 25, 2019  |  12:15 pm   |  LBJ School of Public Affairs, SRH 3.124

On Thursday, April 25, 2019, Suzanne Spaulding, Senior Adviser for Homeland Security and International Security Programs at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, and former Undersecretary at the Department of Homeland Security, gave a talk on "Countering Adversary Attacks on Democracy and the Rule of Law." This talk was part of the Strauss Center's Brumley Speaker Series.

For photos of the event click here. Video is available here


The 2016 Presidential Elections involved an unprecedented disinformation campaign perpetrated by the Russian Government in an attempt to feed on the current polarization present in the United States and, in turn, undermine the legitimacy of our democratic institutions. How our adversary was able to use our own mediums (i.e., social media) to widen our pre-existing issues presents an important problem that is not likely to cede anytime soon. Suzanne Spaulding presented a compelling discussion about this problem and potential solutions, built upon her significant experience as under secretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate at the Department of Homeland Security, where she was responsible for advising on and implementing cybersecurity programs.

Ms. Spaulding presented the model used by the Russian government which included social media campaigns built upon fabricated stories loosely associated real-world occurrences. These campaigns included generating vitriolic hashtags that stoked partisan issues and promotes them through fake counts. This disinformation was distributed in an attempt to inflame ongoing issues and ultimately denigrate our societal fabric built upon communal trust. Sheargued that efforts to combat these disinformation campaigns must come from both the public sector, which needs to focus on transparency and improving social media literacy and the private sector, which should carefully monitor their platforms to prevent their manipulation by Russian adversaries.


For more information about Ms. Spaulding's recent report and roll-out of this Center for Strategic & International Studies project, please see:

Full report:
Interactive report:
Event (video):


Suzanne Spaulding served as under secretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), where she was effectively the CEO, with a rank equivalent to a four-star general, managing a $3 billion budget and a workforce of 18,000, charged with strengthening cybersecurity and protecting the nation’s critical infrastructure. She led the transformation of budget, acquisition, analytic, and operational processes to bring greater agility and unity of effort to an organization that had experienced dramatic growth through acquisition of new entities and missions over several years. Throughout her career, Ms. Spaulding has advised CEOs, boards, and government policymakers on how to manage complex security risks, across all industry sectors. At DHS, she led the development and implementation of national policies for infrastructure protection, including support for National Security Special Events at stadiums and other public venues and development of the National Infrastructure Protection Plan; worked with industry to establish CEO-level coordinating councils in the electric and financial services sectors; and chaired the federal government’s Aviation Cybersecurity Initiative to identify and address key cyber vulnerabilities in the national aviation system. She worked with many foreign governments on critical infrastructure and cybersecurity, including negotiating agreements with China and Israel, and led security regulation of the chemical industry; biometrics and identity management; emergency communications; and the Federal Protective Service. As a member of the Board of Directors for the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), Ms. Spaulding helped oversee the complex and unprecedented effort to deploy the first nation-wide broadband network for public safety. She is currently on the Board of Directors for George Washington University’s Center for Cyber & Homeland Security; the Advisory Board of Harvard University’s Defending Digital Democracy project; and the faculty of the National Association of Corporate Directors. Following the attacks of 9/11, Ms. Spaulding worked with key critical infrastructure sectors as they reviewed their security posture and advised the CEOs of the Business Roundtable. In 2002, she was appointed by Governor Mark Warner of Virginia to the Secure Commonwealth Panel to advise the governor and the legislature regarding preparedness issues. She was managing partner of the Harbour Group; a principal in the Bingham Consulting Group; and of counsel to Bingham McCutchen, LLP.

Ms. Spaulding has served in Republican and Democratic administrations and on both sides of the aisle in Congress. She was general counsel for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and minority staff director for the U.S. House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. She also spent six years at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), where she was legal adviser to the director’s Nonproliferation Center. She was a member of the CSIS Commission on Cybersecurity for the 44th Presidency, which developed a bipartisan national cybersecurity strategy in advance of the 2008 election; executive director of the National Commission on Terrorism and the Commission to Assess the Organization of the Federal Government to Combat the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction; and a consultant on the Advisory Panel to Assess Domestic Response Capabilities for Terrorism Involving Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction. She is a member of the Aspen Institute’s Homeland Security Group; former chair of the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Law and National Security; founder of the Cybersecurity Legal Task Force; and was a member of Harvard University’s Long-Term Legal Strategy Project for Preserving Security and Democratic Freedoms in the War on Terror. Ms. Spaulding has convened and participated in numerous academic and professional advisory panels, been a frequent commentator in public media, and often testified before Congress.

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