Garland: More “depth” needed to protect against cyber attacks

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WASHINGTON (AP) – Attorney General Merrick Garland said Tuesday that private industry needed better safeguards to avoid disastrous consequences in the event of cyberattacks such as those targeted against American infrastructures and businesses.

“You must have a secondary method when your first method shuts down. They have to have depth, and we have to work with them on that, ”Garland said a week after President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin met last year to discuss a spate of ransomware attacks against Russia.

In a broad question-and-answer session with reporters, his first since being confirmed as the country’s chief law enforcement officer in March, Garland also reiterated his concerns about the death penalty and defended the Justice Department’s position in a defamation case against former presidents Donald Trump and insisted that the government will work to protect both the journalists’ personal safety and their ability to hide their confidential sources.

The conversation came when Garland faced calls from Democrats to quickly undo or undo positions by the Justice Department during the Trump administration, including aggressive leak investigations that saw law enforcement agencies receive phone recordings from journalists and congressional officials. The Justice Department inspector-general is now investigating, and Garland met with executives from news media organizations last week.

Garland, who made several key announcements during his tenure but did not ask questions until Tuesday, did not reveal any new details on how these subpoenas were authorized and did not respond when asked when he learned of the issue. But he said it was clear that the balance the department had tried for decades to strike between the rights of journalists’ First Amendment and ensuring classified information was “not enough to protect you”.

He said he believed journalists need sources to expose wrongdoing and bad decisions and “I will do everything I can to protect you” so that you are not forced to reveal those contacts.

Garland also defended the Justice Department’s decision to maintain his position, which first argued last year that Trump cannot be personally held responsible for “crude and disrespectful” remarks made about a woman who accused him of rape, because he made the comments during his tenure.

The Democrats had viewed this case as a place where Garland’s Justice Department could make a dramatic change, but Garland said the case law that government attorneys reviewed tended in favor of the argument that defamatory statements made by an official to the media are protected by law .

“However, the question for us is really a legal issue that has nothing to do with how we are feeling,” said Garland. “We don’t have a rule for Republicans and a rule for Democrats, a rule for a former president, a rule for the current president.”

Noncommittal on Democrats’ calls for an investigation into the possible politicization of Trump Justice Department decisions, he said he did not want professional officials to feel unnecessarily questioned by political officials.

Garland also said he had deep reservations about the death penalty, in part because of the different effects the penalty had on minority communities, and would soon be making a more detailed statement. The Trump administration revived the death penalty last year after a 17-year hiatus in state executions.

Although activists widely expected Biden to act swiftly against the death penalty as the first incumbent president to oppose the death penalty, the White House has remained largely silent.

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Follow Eric Tucker on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/etuckerAP





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