Fascinating new insights from the 2012 presidential campaign have come out ahead of the Nov. 5 release of the new book “Double Down: Game Change 2012,” but a detail about Chinese hackers targeting Mitt Romney has us asking even more questions.
At Time Magazine’s Swampland blog, authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann provide an excerpt from the book that details Romney’s search for a vice presidential running mate. His longtime adviser Beth Myers is told to make sure the #2 is Commander-in-Chief quality and there’s nothing in the background that would hurt the campaign.
Halperin continues (emphasis ours):
Myers set up her operation in a third-floor office on Boston’s Commercial Street that became known as “the clean room.” Because the Romney campaign’s servers were under continual assault by Chinese hackers, the computers in the clean room were not connected to the Internet. Myers insisted that the team be extremely cautious about what they put in e-mail when using their regular computers. Ted Newton and Chris Oman, two veep background checkers, concluded it was best to communicate in code. Based on their junk-food-saturated vetting diet, they called their undertaking Project Goldfish (after the crackers) — ultimately giving each of the VP finalists an aquatic code name. Myers’ plan was to have Project Goldfish completed by Memorial Day. In April she presented Romney with a list of two dozen names, which he whittled down to 11: Kelly Ayotte, John Cornyn, Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels, Bill Frist, Mike Huckabee, Bob McDonnell, Tim Pawlenty, Rob Portman, Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan.
While the excerpt focuses mainly on the VP search — including a deep dive into Chris Christie’s background and why he wasn’t chosen — this small detail about cyberwar happening in the midst of a campaign is fascinating.
What were the hackers trying to learn from the Romney campaign? What were they able to extract, if anything? How much information does China extract from targeting emails? Was the Secret Service or a U.S. agency such as the NSA involved in thwarting their attacks? Were they also going after the Obama campign in some fashion as well?
Hopefully, the book’s release will see these nagging questions answered.
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