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Justice Department Plans New Cybercrime Team

The leader of the Justice Department's criminal division is expected to announce today the creation of a new unit to prevent cybercrime and work alongside law enforcement, private sector companies and Congress.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell will debut the initiative at a daylong CyberCrime2020 symposium at Georgetown University's law school, according to a copy of her prepared remarks.

"Prosecutors from the Cybersecurity Unit will provide a central hub for expert advice and legal guidance" about U.S. and international laws, Caldwell said, "to ensure that powerful law enforcement tools are effectively used to bring perpetrators to justice while also protecting the privacy of everyday Americans."

For instance, Caldwell is expected to cite an episode earlier this year when communications service providers worried whether U.S. law allows them to share certain cyberthreat information. The Justice Department studied the issue, Caldwell said, clearing "roadblocks" and easing uncertainty about the law.

The Georgetown law conference today will feature prosecutors, academics, technology experts and at least one European cybercrime official.

The sessions represent an effort by Caldwell and other top law enforcement figures to try to counteract public distrust of surveillance after disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, mistrust that Caldwell believes can hurt legitimate investigations.

"Most of this mistrust ... comes from misconceptions about the technical abilities of the law enforcement tools and the manner in which they are used," according to Caldwell's prepared remarks.