Lynch vows cyber focus at DOJ

Cybersecurity got prominent mention during Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s swearing-in ceremony on Monday.

The issue is expected to consume a significant portion of Lynch’s tenure at the head of the Department of Justice (DOJ), which has been struggling to combat the rapid rise of remote hackers and potential cyber terrorists.

{mosads}In closing her speech after officially becoming DOJ head, Lynch outlined several goals she thinks the department should pursue.

“We can protect the most vulnerable among us from the scourge of modern-day slavery — so antithetical to the values forged in blood in this country,” she said. “We can protect the growing cyber world. We can give those in our care both protection from terrorism and the security of their civil liberties.”

Lynch has been lauded for her background battling cyber crime as a federal prosecutor in New York. While promoting her nomination, Lynch’s supporters repeatedly pointed to a successful prosecution of eight New York-based members of an international cyber crime ring that hacked bank accounts and emptied $45 million from ATMs around the world.

“She has actually prosecuted so many of these cases and she knows what this is like,” Senate Intelligence Committee ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) told The Hill in February. “She knows the agenda, she knows the viciousness.”

Senators hammered on the growing cyber threats during Lynch’s at-times combative confirmation hearing.

On cyber, however, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle came away impressed.

“I think she’s very sincere, really good background, I think she’s a tough prosecutor and on the cyber threat, her answer was excellent,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who pressed Lynch on cyber terrorism during the hearing, told The Hill afterward.

It’s expected Lynch will play a pivotal role in reshaping the DOJ’s approach to cybersecurity.

During her tenure, Lynch’s department will work to clarify vague legal definitions for digital crimes, prosecute and capture elusive foreign cyber crooks, and help decide how the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance programs might be reformed.

In recent months, the DOJ has already taken some initial steps to refocus its cyber crime approach.

In late 2014, the agency reorganized its national security division and U.S. attorneys offices to make cyber threats a greater priority. It also launched a dedicated cybersecurity unit within the criminal division.

But Lynch will still have to determine exactly what role the DOJ plays in a cluttered cyber field at the federal level.

The FBI, Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security all play a role in cyber investigations. The NSA even steps in from time to time.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) raised the overlapping jurisdictions as a point of concern during Lynch’s hearing. Lynch vowed to help delineate her agency’s role if confirmed.

On Monday, Lynch reaffirmed her commitment.

“I cannot wait to begin that journey,” she said. 

Tags Dianne Feinstein Lindsey Graham Sheldon Whitehouse

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