At a glance.
- US Attorney General urges prosecutors to give priority to COVID-19 cybercrime.
- Disinformation about states of emergency and the US Stafford Act.
- US Senate approves two-and-a-half-month extension of domestic surveillance authorities.
- US Justice Department will abandon prosecution of Russian influence shop.
Attorney General urges US Attorneys to give priority to prosecution of COVID-19-related scams.
US Attorney General Barr has urged US Attorneys--that is, Federal prosecutors--to give priority to scams related to COVID-19, CyberScoop reports. His memorandum emphasizes phishing emails and malicious mobile apps nominally designed to track the virus.
The Stafford Act is not martial law.
Disinformation pushed from various sources (and in part arising spontaneously) has been saying that the US has been placed under a national quarantine, to be administered and enforced (in some accounts) by the military. But there's nothing to this. The Stafford Act, under which the President last week declared a state of emergency, is a familiar law that facilitates Federal delivery of assistance to the states when the governors request it during times of emergency. There's a striking unanimity of reporting on the story. Consider Mother Jones and US News, hardly ideological soulmates. Both have reported on the false news, and both reach much the same conclusion--it’s bogus.
US Senate approves short-term extension of domestic surveillance authorities.
The Senate didn't vote on the more comprehensive bill the House sent it last week, but yesterday the Senators did approve a two-and-one-half-month extension of domestic surveillance authorities that lapsed Sunday. The matter now goes back to the House, the Wall Street Journal says, which will have the option of concurring (or not) in the Senate's extension. Full consideration of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and related matters will wait for another day.
Concord Management and Consulting is off the US Department of Justice's hook.
The US Justice Department has decided not to continue its prosecution of Concord Management and Consulting, a company which, despite its almost parodical American-sounding name, is a Russian firm that does no business in the US. The company had been indicted for influence operations as a result of Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation of Russian operations during the US 2016 elections. The Washington Post reports that prosecutors cited a “change in the balance of the government’s proof due to a classification determination” in their filing for dismissal. This led them to conclude that proceeding would no longer be in the interest of either justice or national security. The prosecutors’ filing essentially argues that Concord would use discovery and the trial itself to further its own ends of disinformation, and that the company was essentially beyond the reach of US punitive measures. Its principals won't be extradited, and it has no US business to halt.