The overarching question imparting urgency to this exploration is: Can U.S.-Russian contention in cyberspace cause the two nuclear superpowers to stumble into war? In considering this question we were constantly reminded of recent comments by a prominent U.S. arms control expert: At least as dangerous as the risk of an actual cyberattack, he observed, is cyber operations’ “blurring of the line between peace and war.” Or, as Nye wrote, “in the cyber realm, the difference between a weapon and a non-weapon may come down to a single line of code, or simply the intent of a computer program’s user.”
John C. Demers served as the Assistant Attorney General for National Security from February 2018 through June 2021 under both Presidents Donald Trump and Joe Biden. In that capacity, he led the Department of Justice’s efforts to combat national security related cyber-crime, terrorism and espionage; enforce export control and sanctions laws; use the authorities of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and conduct national security review of foreign investments and telecommunications licensing applications. During his tenure, Demers also led the Attorney General’s China Initiative at the Department of Justice.
Since leaving the Department, Demers has served as Corporate Secretary for The Boeing Company. Demers’s responsibilities include oversight of legal matters related to corporate governance and securities filings, mergers and acquisitions, sustainability and environment, health and safety and cybersecurity. Prior to his last position at the Department of Justice, Demers was Vice President and Assistant General Counsel at Boeing, where he held several senior positions including in Boeing Defense, Space, and Security and as lead lawyer and head of international government affairs for Boeing International.
From 2006 to 2009, Demers served on the first leadership team of the National Security Division at the Department of Justice, first as Senior Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General and then as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Law & Policy. In addition, he has served in the Office of Legal Counsel and the Office of the Deputy Attorney General.
Demers currently serves in an advisory capacity to several cybersecurity policy organizations. From 2010 to 2017, he taught national security law as an adjunct professor at the Georgetown University Law Center. He graduated from the College of the Holy Cross and Harvard Law School, and clerked for Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and Associate Justice Antonin Scalia of the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Asia-Pacific Initiative
The Belfer Center's Asia-Pacific Initiative is dedicated to studying opportunities and challenges facing one of the most diverse, complex, and pivotal regions of the world. Leveraging the resources and expertise at Harvard University, the initiative seeks to analyze issues that have increasingly defined the broader Asia-Pacific as the emerging economic, technological, and geopolitical center of gravity in the 21st century, and to develop constructive approaches to promote peace and prosperity in the region.
The Defense Project
The Defense Project seeks to increase the Belfer Center’s visibility and capacity to advance policy relevant knowledge in defense and international security areas and help prepare future leaders for service in those fields. Through a robust seminar series featuring visiting senior military officers and DoD civilian leaders, this initiative links defense professionals with Belfer researchers, faculty, and students, to facilitate better policy-making in the field and enrich the education of fellows and students about security issues.