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Working to Counter Online Radicalization to Violence in the United States
February 5, 2013 Posted by

Earlier today, the White House released a policy statement to counter violent extremist use of the Internet to recruit and radicalize to violence in the United States.  The statement from Quintan Wiktorowicz, the White House Senior Director for Community Partnerships, on the National Security Staff originally appeared on the White House Blog and is reposted in full below.

The American public increasingly relies on the Internet for socializing, business transactions, gathering information, entertainment, and creating and sharing content. The rapid growth of the Internet has brought opportunities but also risks, and the Federal Government is committed to empowering members of the public to protect themselves against the full range of online threats, including online radicalization to violence.

Violent extremist groups ─ like al-Qa’ida and its affiliates and adherents, violent supremacist groups, and violent “sovereign citizens” ─ are leveraging online tools and resources to propagate messages of violence and division. These groups use the Internet to disseminate propaganda, identify and groom potential recruits, and supplement their real-world recruitment efforts.  Some members and supporters of these groups visit mainstream fora to see whether individuals might be recruited or encouraged to commit acts of violence, look for opportunities to draw targets into private exchanges, and exploit popular media like music videos and online video games.  Although the Internet offers countless opportunities for Americans to connect, it has also provided violent extremists with access to new audiences and instruments for radicalization.

As a starting point to prevent online radicalization to violence in the homeland, the Federal Government initially will focus on raising awareness about the threat and providing communities with practical information and tools for staying safe online. In this process, we will work closely with the technology industry to consider policies, technologies, and tools that can help counter violent extremism online. Companies already have developed voluntary measures to promote Internet safety ─ such as fraud warnings, identity protection, and Internet safety tips ─ and we will collaborate with industry to explore how we might counter online violent extremism without interfering with lawful Internet use or the privacy and civil liberties of individual users.

This approach is consistent with Internet safety principles that have helped keep communities safe from a range of online threats, such as cyber bullies, scammers, gangs, and sexual predators. While each of these threats is unique, experience has shown that a well-informed public, armed with tools and resources to stay safe online, is critical to protecting communities. Pursuing such an approach is also consistent with the community-based framework we outlined in Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States (PDF) and the Strategic Implementation Plan for Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States (PDF).

A New Interagency Working Group

To more effectively organize our efforts, the Administration is establishing a new Interagency Working Group to Counter Online Radicalization to Violence, chaired by the National Security Staff at the White House and involving specialists in countering violent extremism, Internet safety experts, and civil liberties and privacy practitioners from across the United States Government. This Working Group will be responsible for developing plans to implement an Internet safety approach to address online violent extremism, coordinating the Federal Government’s activities and assessing our progress against these plans, and identifying additional activities to pursue for countering online radicalization to violence.

Raising Awareness through Existing Initiatives

In the coming months, the Working Group will coordinate with Federal departments and agencies to raise awareness and disseminate tools for staying safe from online violent extremism primarily through three means.

First, information about online violent extremism will be incorporated into existing Federal Government Internet safety initiatives.  Internet safety initiatives at the Department of Education, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Homeland Security, and other agencies provide platforms that already reach millions of Americans, and relevant departments and agencies will work to add materials related to online radicalization.

The primary government platform for raising awareness about Internet safety is OnGuard Online, managed by the Federal Trade Commission and involving 16 departments and agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Education.  OnGuard Online─ in addition to other Federal Government Internet safety platforms like Stop.Think.Connect and Safe Online Surfing─ will begin including information about online violent extremism.  This information also will be posted on the Countering Violent Extremism homepage on the Department of Homeland Security’s website and updated to reflect new best practices and research.

Second, the Federal Government will work with local organizations throughout the country to disseminate information about the threat.  One reason for the success of Federal Government Internet safety awareness efforts is that they work closely with local organizations — such as school districts, Parent Teacher Associations, local government, and law enforcement — to communicate to communities.  Law enforcement is a particularly important partner in raising awareness about radicalization to violence and is already developing materials with support from the Department of Justice. Law enforcement departments and agencies have established Internet safety programs and relationships with community members and local organizations that can reach multiple audiences with critical information about the threat of online violent extremism and recruitment. Departments and agencies will provide the latest assessments of this threat to our local partners and encourage them to incorporate this information into their programs and initiatives.

Third, departments and agencies will use our preexisting engagement with communities to provide information about Internet safety and details about how violent extremists are using the Internet to target and exploit communities.  U.S. Attorneys throughout the country, who historically have engaged with communities on a range of public safety issues, are coordinating these Federal engagement efforts at the local level, with support from other departments and agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Education.  U.S. Attorneys and others involved in community engagement will seek to incorporate information about Internet radicalization to violence into their efforts, as appropriate.  At the same time, the Federal Government will engage with State, local, and tribal government and law enforcement officials to learn from their experiences in addressing online threats, including violent extremism.

Going Forward

As the Federal Government implements this effort in the coming months, we will continue to investigate and prosecute those who use the Internet to recruit others to plan or carry out acts of violence, while ensuring that we also continue to uphold individual privacy and civil liberties.  Preventing online radicalization to violence requires both proactive solutions to reduce the likelihood that violent extremists affect their target audiences as well as ensuring that laws are rigorously enforced. 

For a fact sheet on Countering Online Radicalization to Violence, click here (PDF).

New Network Takes Aim at Cyber Threats to National Security
November 14, 2012 Posted by

Amidst a continuing increase in national security-related cyber attacks and intrusions targeting America, the National Security Division (NSD), in partnership with the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) and U.S. Attorney’s Offices across the country, last week launched a new, nationwide program focused on combating cyber-based terrorism and state sponsored computer intrusions. 

Federal prosecutors from around the country convened at Justice Department headquarters from November 7-9 for the inaugural meeting of the National Security Cyber Specialists – or NSCS – network, to receive specialized training and discuss new strategies for combating cyber threats to national security.  The NSCS network, which consists of nearly 100 prosecutors from U.S. Attorney’s Offices nationwide and cyber experts from NSD and CCIPS, is a new tool in the government’s cyber tool kit and a critical part of the department’s efforts to better address cyber intrusions and attacks carried out by nation states or terrorist organizations.

Where attacks against America’s digital infrastructure were once primarily the work of criminal hackers and others seeking profit or acclaim, today, national security threat actors are also increasingly looking for opportunities to exploit cyberspace to achieve their objectives.  Numerous sophisticated state actors are known to be using the internet for espionage and cyber intrusions targeting America’s vital military and economic secrets.  And while terrorists have yet to launch a major cyber attack against this country, they have already used the internet to facilitate bomb plots  against the United States, and have exhorted individuals with cyber expertise to exploit U.S. cyber vulnerabilities — weaknesses they liken to the vulnerability of U.S. airline security before September 11.

Lisa Monaco, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, said at a cyber conference last month in Seattle:

 “We often think of national security threats, like that of a catastrophic terrorist attack, as questions about prevention. But the cyber threat is not simply looming – it is here.  It is present and growing.”

The NSCS network is a creation of the Justice Department’s NSD, working in partnership with CCIPS, the Cybercrime and Intellectual Property Enforcement Subcommittee of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee, and the U.S. Attorney community.  Recognizing the emerging cyber threat from nation states and terrorists, and building on the groundwork laid by CCIPS and the Computer Hacking and Intellectual Property coordinators in combating cyber crimes, last year NSD undertook a comprehensive review of its cyber-related efforts to determine how it could contribute most to U.S. efforts to combat cyber threats to national security. 

In April 2012, the division completed its review and charted short- and long-term goals, which included as a top priority the creation of a nationwide network of headquarters and field personnel trained and equipped to handle national security-related cyber issues.  In June of this year, NSD established the NSCS at Justice Department headquarters by bringing together individuals from across NSD and CCIPS to work collaboratively on cyber national security issues and to serve as a one-stop shop for prosecutors and agents around the country when they learn of national security-related cyber intrusions and for reporting from private sector entities.  The headquarters component of the network is intended to harness talent and expertise from across the Department to attack these problems from all angles and identify possible case overlaps and potential leads. 

To build upon the steps taken at headquarters, in July 2012, each of the 93 U.S. Attorney’s Offices designated one or more cleared attorneys to act as force multipliers, broadening the network’s reach.  U.S. Attorneys will also play a critical role in the network, leading the engagement of their particular districts.  Drawing on the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force model, which has been successful in the counterterrorism realm, this network will improve the flow of national security cyber information to and from offices around the country.

To equip this large cyber cadre in how to best address these new threats, the department has developed and carried out extensive training.  Last week’s inaugural NSCS conference covered topics ranging from digital evidence, to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, to current threat trends, to common challenges in combating national security cyber threats specifically.  Underscoring the importance of this mission, Attorney General Eric Holder, FBI Director Robert Mueller, Assistant Attorney General Monaco, and others from the department and the FBI addressed the network throughout the three-day conference.  This event followed specialized training by NSD and CCIPS in October for all members of the NSCS network at Justice Department headquarters, and a more general training on basic cyber issues for approximately another 100 headquarters attorneys.

With the network built, the department will be able to accelerate some of the national security cyber work that has been ongoing since NSD’s cyber review.  In particular, the network will help strengthen partnerships between the department and agencies across the U.S. government, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, and various elements of the Intelligence Community.  The network also will work particularly closely with the FBI’s National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force (NCIJTF) to help preserve all intelligence collection, prevention, disruption and response options for cyber national security threats.  NSD has already installed a dedicated liaison to NCIJTF.  In addition, the NSCS network will be increasing its outreach to the private sector to engage businesses and individuals in the cyber discussion and help prevent attacks and intrusions.  Through these private sector alliances, the network will gain a better understanding of private sector cyber security concerns.

Going forward, the NSCS network is focused on ensuring a whole-of-government and all-tools approach to combating cyber threats to national security.  The network will be working to bring investigations and prosecutions as viable options for deterrence and disruption as part of the government-wide response to these threats.  The network will also be advising and consulting other parts of the government in the use of additional tools to counter these threats.

As Assistant Attorney General Monaco stated last month in Seattle:

 “The diversity of cyber threats and threat actors demands a diverse response.  This nation has many tools – intelligence, law enforcement, military, diplomatic, and economic – at its collective disposal, as well as deep and diverse expertise.  The trick is in harnessing our collective resources to work effectively together.” 

Through the creation of the NSCS network, the department is ensuring that the full power of its collective resources is brought to bear against national security cyber threats.

Federal Law Enforcement Highlight Cyber Threat
November 1, 2012 Posted by

The following post appears courtesy of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington

Speaking at the 2012 Cybercrime Conference hosted by U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan of the Western District of Washington, the head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, Assistant Attorney General Lisa Monaco, reiterated to an audience that threats posed through cyberspace are expected – in the not too distant future – to become the number one threat to our nation’s security.

In the lead panel entitled “Cyberthreats and National Security: A Convergence,” Assistant Attorney General Monaco described how the internet is being used not only to facilitate bomb plots and other terrorist operations targeting the United States, but is also being used for espionage and cyber intrusions aimed at obtaining American economic, commercial or trade secrets. 

Assistant Attorney General Monaco:

“There is no such thing as a local cybercrime. The hacker has probably touched three continents before he skims your bank account.”

U.S. Attorney Durkan spoke about the evolving threat of cybercrime, and about the steps taken by the Justice Department and their international partners:

“Cyber threats are rapidly evolving.  They impact our daily lives, our economy and our personal and national security.  We will use every means to detect, disrupt and defend against this growing problem. Fortunately, we are bringing the right people with better tools to the fight.  To confront the cyber threats we need to ensure that law enforcement, private industry and our international partners are sharing information, working together and coordinating responses.” 

Both Hugh Dunleavy, Deputy Assistant Director of the U.S. Secret Service, and James Burrell, Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI’s Cyber Division, described how “hackers for hire” can be used by nation states to attack the U.S. and American industries.  Most of the data breaches occur through servers and more than two-thirds of the breaches are traced to hackers in Europe.  All the members of the panel agreed it is critical to have international relations in place to be able to investigate and prosecute cyber criminals.

U.S. Attorney Durkan is Chair of a department committee on Cybercrime and Intellectual Property Enforcement.  The Cybercrime Conference is an annual event bringing together leaders in technology from the private sector, government and law enforcement.

The conference, held in Seattle last week, was attended by more than 200 people and touched on a variety of issues.  Some of the panel discussions are summarized here:

In Privacy Under Attack: Government or Industry, and the Need for a Privacy Bill of Rights, five experienced panelists discussed the changing landscape of privacy rights and protections in an age dominated by social media and mobile devices filled with apps that collect users’ personal information.  While the panelists all agreed that “Big Data” is a modern reality, they debated how to best maximize its uses while minimizing intrusions on personal privacy.  The debate included a robust discussion of how and when consumers should be notified that their information is being gathered, and how their consent should be obtained to use that information.

In Computer Searches in the New Millennium: the Collision between the Fourth Amendment and Computer Forensics, the panel reviewed the Ninth Circuit’s landmark decision in United States v. Comprehensive Drug Testing, and debated the need for special rules governing the execution of search warrants on computers, and whether such rules are required under the Fourth Amendment.  The panel also discussed the efficacy and practicality of such rules in the context of computer forensics.

In Getting Ahead: Joint Cooperation in Response to and Prevention of Cyberthreats, panelists discussed implementing better methods of sharing information between researchers, law enforcement, and industry in an effort to assist in identifying threats, mitigating the harm caused by cyberattacks, and bringing the wrongdoers to justice, with a special focus on several of the practical and legal limitations on such information sharing. 

For more information on cyber crime, visit the FBI Cyber Crime Information web page or File a Complaint with the Internet Crimes Complaint Center.

Video: Attorney General Eric Holder at Today’s Press Conference
November 13, 2009 Posted by

This morning, at a press conference held at The Department of Justice, Attorney General Eric Holder, on behalf of The Departments of Justice and Defense, announced forum decisions for 10 Guantanamo Bay detainees.

Watch the video:

Transcript (PDF)

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