Former NATO, DHS Officials Launch Election Interference Commission

Independent group aims to stop Russian and other meddlers in future elections

Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff testifies during the Senate Judiciary hearing on immigration. Chertoff is co-chairing a commission to prevent election interference. (Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The United States, NATO and the European Union launched a commission to prevent election interference Friday.

Former NATO chief and Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen and former Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff announced the Transatlantic Commission on Election Integrity in Washington at a press conference.

Concrete measures to prevent election meddling needs to happen as soon as possible, Chertoff, one of the commission’s co-chairs said. There will be over 20 elections across the U.S. and Europe over the next year and a half, but there’s still no reliable means to prevent election meddling, he said.

“There’s no sign that Russians and others who have meddled in the past have any reason to stop now,” Chertoff said. “We have to treat this with urgency.”

The commission will focus on finding solutions to three major election meddling strategies: manipulation of social media, tampering with social infrastructure and leaking classified documents.

The Alliance of Democracies Foundation, an international non-profit, created the commission. Other members of the commission include former Vice President Joe Biden, former President of Mexico Felipe Calderon and former ABC and CNN anchor Jeanne Meserve.

The commission got its start through funding by Rasmussen’s business, political consulting firm Rasmussen Global, but other companies have contributed funding. Microsoft provided $300,000 to finance the commission.

While some members of the United States Congress and European Union have been in talks with the commission, they have not checked with the White House or any government body about starting work on this issue. Despite collaboration with government and business actors, the commission itself is independent.

“We don’t need permission to establish this commission,” Chertoff said.

The European Union has already taken policy steps on some of these issues, but the commission wants to establish a way for Europeans and Americans to work together.

“Attacks on democracy will affect all parties,” Rasmussen said. “If we want to establish concrete solutions, we need to exchange knowledge and take global-minded actions.”

In addition to finding policy and technology solutions to prevent election interference, the commission wants to find means to identify and punish meddlers, Chertoff said.

“We are taking a strong line against misbehaviors,” he said. “If we want this to stop, we need a set of responses that is vigorous and measured to push back against these actions.”

The Alliance of Democracies Foundation plans to talk more about the commission and efforts to prevent campaign meddling in Copenhagen this June.

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