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U.S. Attorney General Nominee Defends NSA Surveillance

Sunday, April 19th, 2015

Loretta Lynch, Barack Obama’s nominee to replace the current Attorney General, has defended the NSA surveillance activities carried out by the intelligence agencies and even vowed to expand their scope if her appointment gets confirmed by the Senate. Speaking in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee during her confirmation hearing, Lynch was grilled on a number of issues by the committee members which included surveillance, immigration and death penalty. Lynch, who is serving as the current U.S. Attorney for Eastern District of New York since the year 2010, is widely expected to replace the current Attorney General Eric Holder.

While making her opening statement, Lynch promised that if she gets selected, she will expand and enhance the capabilities of the U.S. law enforcement to prevent ever-increasing cyber-attacks, expose the criminals and bring the perpetrators of cybercrimes to justice. She recalled the measures taken by her department during her tenure as the United States Attorney to fight cybercrime and also noted how cyber issues have become an inseparable part of most type of legal cases.

During the hearing, Republican senators tried to rattle Lynch by asking questions on several controversial topics. When asked about the surveillance activities carried out by the National Security Agency, she said that she considers the work done by the agency to be constitutional and effective. And when she was questioned about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act which allows law enforcement to fight terrorism but is set to expire in June, Lynch said that she supported the provisions that are available within the Act.

During the opening statement, judiciary ranking member Patrick Leahy praised the work done by Lynch and also made a reference to the 2013 cybercrime case cracked by her department. The case involved apprehending eight criminals from New York who were part of a bigger international cybercrime gang which specialized in hacking bank accounts. According to reliable estimates, the group was able to withdraw $45 million simply by raising the withdrawal limits of the hacked accounts.

Noting that Lynch has worked tirelessly against crime and fraud and was able to bring criminals and corrupt officials from both the parties to justice, Leahy said the Department of Justice now needs a tech savvy leader so that it can fight threats to data privacy and cybersecurity more effectively. Lynch also said that she is proud to lead a team that has great experience in fighting international cybercrime, including crimes committed against important public sector organizations and financial institutions.

In the recent years, the U.S. Department of Justice has taken several important measures to tackle cybercrime including creation of a dedicated cybersecurity unit. Leahy mentioned that while the threat of cybercrime is real, the unchecked surveillance dragnet unleashed by the U.S. intelligence agencies cannot be ignored. He also said that the DOJ is bound to be dragged into the upcoming debate regarding NSA’s surveillance since the agency’s work has become closely related to the department’s cybercrime investigations. Leahy also added that the next attorney general would be an important part of those debates and would play an important role in protecting the future rights of American citizens.

April 19, 2015

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