DOJ Announces New Cybersecurity Task Force

Yesterday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the creation of a new cybersecurity task force at the Department of Justice:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered the creation of the Justice Department’s Cyber-Digital Task Force, which will canvass the many ways that the Department is combatting the global cyber threat, and will also identify how federal law enforcement can more effectively accomplish its mission in this vital and evolving area. 

“The Internet has given us amazing new tools that help us work, communicate, and participate in our economy, but these tools can also be exploited by criminals, terrorists, and enemy governments,” Attorney General Sessions said.  “At the Department of Justice, we take these threats seriously.  That is why today I am ordering the creation of a Cyber-Digital Task Force to advise me on the most effective ways that this Department can confront these threats and keep the American people safe.” 

The Task Force will be chaired by a senior Department official appointed by the Deputy Attorney General [Rod Rosenstein] and will consist of representatives from the Department’s Criminal Division, the National Security Division, the United States Attorney’s Office community, the Office of Legal Policy, the Office of Privacy and Civil Liberties, the Office of the Chief Information Officer, the ATF, FBI, DEA, and the U.S. Marshals Service. . . . The Task Force will be responsible for issuing a report to the Attorney General by the end of June.  

The Attorney General has asked the Task Force to prioritize its study of efforts to interfere with our elections; efforts to interfere with our critical infrastructure; the use of the Internet to spread violent ideologies and to recruit followers; the mass theft of corporate, governmental, and private information; the use of technology to avoid or frustrate law enforcement; and the mass exploitation of computers and other digital devices to attack American citizens and businesses.  The scope of the Task Force’s report is not limited to these categories.

Attorney General Sessions realizes that, despite the media attention on alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election (and indeed, almost every story on this task force has a headline about its study of efforts to interfere with our elections), the cybersecurity threat America faces from bad actors is much broader.  As he says in the memorandum creating the task force, after noting the pervasiveness of technology in the modern world:

Indeed, the scale of this cyber threat, and the range of actors that use cyber attacks and intrusions to achieve their objectives, have grown in alarming ways. . . . Most of the pressing cyber threats that our nation faces transcend easy categorization.  

We look forward to seeing this task force's report.  Unlike many efforts championed by the liberals to respond to allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 election, it will provide guidance and potential solutions that are helpful to state and local election officials without usurping their important role in election administration, will complement the important cybersecurity work being done by election officials, will not create a new permanent federal bureaucracy, and will not limit law-abiding Americans' rights on the Internet.