The computer network of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) was recently hacked into by cyber criminals. National media outlets have reported that federal officials tried to warn the DNC months before the intrusion about a potential breach and the group was slow to respond to the threat.
The leak of thousands of documents, and embarrassing emails, by WikiLeaks the weekend before the Democratic National Convention certainly indicates that the DNC either did not take the official warning seriously enough or failed to timely respond to it.
The political fallout was swift.
DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Shultz and several other top party leaders were forced to resign after the release of incriminating emails that created, at the very least, an appearance that party leaders tried to undermine the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign.
The Hillary Clinton campaign immediately accused Russian hackers of the cyber intrusion, suggesting that it was done to provide support for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump who has openly expressed a personal admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The political accusations have some merit.
The New York Times reported on July 26, 2016 that American intelligence agencies have informed the White House that they have “high confidence” that the “Russian government” was responsible for the cyber theft of the DNC emails and documents.
The intelligence agencies, however, are not certain whether the cyber intrusion was an attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election or was just routine cyber espionage that is conducted by all governments, including the United States.
Donald Trump, however, lent credence to political and media speculation that the Russians were trying to influence the presidential election by encouraging the suspected Russian hackers to continue to search for some 33,000 State Department emails supposedly deleted from Hillary Clinton’s private server.
The Trump suggestion created a political firestorm because Republicans have charged that there is highly “classified information” in the emails that, if released, would create national security problems for the United States.
In effect, the Republican presidential nominee suggested that the Russians access the classified information, purview it for their own interests, and then turn it over to the FBI. He said the American media would love them for what can only be described as a breach of national security.
It is a federal crime for anyone who “knowingly and willfully communicates, furnishes, transmits, or otherwise makes available to an unauthorized person, or publishes, or uses in any manner prejudicial to the safety and interest of the United States or for the benefit of any foreign government to the detriment of the United States any classified information …”
It has been publicly stated in a slew of political and media contexts (without any real substantiation) that Clinton’s deleted emails contained classified information. Trump himself has made these allegations.
While there is no specific federal offense for encouraging a foreign government or private individuals to disclose classified information obtained through unlawful means to the detriment of the United States, it is suborning a criminal violation of a federal statute for anyone, even a presidential candidate, to advocate for such a disclosure.
The FBI began investigating the leak quickly after the emails were published. It is unclear if the agency’s investigation will look into the possibility that representatives of the Trump campaign colluded with, or had prior knowledge of, a possible foreign government intrusion into the DNC’s computer network.
Cyber Attacks are a Top Priority in Federal Investigations
Cyber attacks are serious law enforcement matters, regardless of whether the victims are political entities like the DNC or everyday American citizens.
Computer intrusions occur on a frequent basis each day in this country, attacking businesses, law firms, government officials, and other. These types of data breaches leave businesses, political leaders, and individuals feeling extremely vulnerable, especially when the hackers are hard to identify.
Cyber attacks often take the form of white collar crimes that involve identity theft, commercial trading information, or invasions into the private lives of individuals in order to expose embarrassing information.
In the age of the internet and social media, computer crimes havebecome real threats to both national security and individual privacy. These crimes are difficult—often impossible—to prevent. Hackers, as they are known in every day vernacular, are extremely intelligent individuals who make it a part of their trade to breach each new security wall put in their path.
Federal Crimes and the Evidence Stacked against You
Many computer crimes are committed over state lines, and therefore are tried in federal court.
In federal cases, the Government is equipped to conduct more extensive investigations through an array of law enforcement and intelligence gathering agencies, such as the FBI, DEA, and CIA who have the wide-ranging investigative tools to gather evidence against a defendant.
The use of federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies is one of the biggest reasons why being charged with a federal crime is so serious. If you are charged with a federal crime, you will face the boundless resources of the Government which can present daunting personal and financial problems. You will need a strong defense strategy and an experienced attorney who has fought for (and won) cases that are similar to yours.