Disinformation Campaigns and Covert Influence in the United States


On Thursday, August 6 from 2 – 3 PM ET, NSI convened a panel discussion on Disinformation Campaigns and Covert Influence in the United States: Legal Challenges and Policy Responses as part of Phi Alpha Delta’s 63rd Biennial Convention and Leadership Conference.

Foreign adversaries, such as China, Russia and Iran, have long sought to sow division in the United States and undermine national institutions through information operations such as cyberattacks or disinformation campaigns, particularly during elections. Advances in digital technology have created new vulnerabilities and enabled states to engage in an unprecedented level of destabilizing covert influence.  Amidst the novel coronavirus crisis, there is significant evidence that foreign adversaries have launched disinformation campaigns to undermine public trust in democratic institutions and to prevent effective public health responses.  This panel examined information operations related to elections and the COVID-19 pandemic launched by foreign actors, review the toolkit of responses available to US government actors, and examined whether the current national security legal and policy regime is sufficient to address these fast-evolving threats to US elections systems and critical infrastructure entities, including healthcare institutions.

The panel featured:

  • Matthew Ferraro, NSI Visiting Fellow and Senior Associate at WilmerHale
  • Lisa Kaplan, NSI Visiting Fellow and Founder of Alethea Group
  • Megan Stifel, NSI Visiting Fellow and former Director for International Cyber Policy, National Security Council
  • Jamil N. Jaffer, NSI Founder and Executive Director, moderated the panel.


Speaker Bios:

  • Matthew Ferraro is an NSI Visiting Fellow and a senior associate at the international law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr. Matthew writes widely on national security, cybersecurity, and legal issues.  Before entering the legal profession, served in multiple staff, policy, and operational positions with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the CIA.
  • Lisa Kaplan is an NSI Visiting Fellow and the founder of Alethea Group, which helps organizations navigate the new digital reality and protect themselves against disinformation. Previously, she served as digital director for Senator Angus King’s reelection campaign in 2018 and worked as a consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers to the State Department.
  • Megan Stifel is an NSI Visiting Fellow and the founder of Silicon Harbor Consultants, a firm that provides strategic cybersecurity operations and policy counsel. She currently serves as Senior Policy Counsel at the Global Cyber Alliance and previously served as a Director for International Cyber Policy at the National Security Council.