DOJ Launching Task Force on Election Cyberthreats

Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants a report by June on the best way for DOJ to confront the cybersecurity threats from terrorists, criminals and enemy governments, with efforts to interfere with elections a top priority.

Top intelligence and law enforcement officials, including from Justice, told a congressional hearing panel last week that Russia will almost certainly try to interfere with the midterms, as they did the 2016 presidential elections, and that the country was not adequately prepared to combat the threat.

Sessions Tuesday (Feb. 20) announced the creation of a Cyber-Digital Task Force comprising representatives of DOJ'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.

White House: Cyber Attacks Cost Big Bucks

He said the priorities would be "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."

DOJ also said that list was not exhaustive.

DOJ may also invite membership from other agencies--the FCC and Federal Trade Commissionwould be obvious candidates.

President Donald Trump has downplayed Russian meddling in elections--suggesting it was part of a campaign to delegitimize his victory by his Democratic opponents aided by the media--but has more recently said he was challenging the suggestions of his campaign's collusion with such efforts, not whether or not there had been attempts to meddle.

The President's clarification followed indictments by DOJ last week against a host of Russian entities over allegations of widespread online efforts to influence the election. (DOJ's indictments against 13 Russian individuals and three companies for "committing federal crimes while seeking to interfere in the United States political system, including the 2016 Presidential election.").

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.