The U.S. Department of Justice and President George Bush are committed to fighting intellectual-property theft and cybercrime, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told a small audience in Seattle on Wednesday morning.
He cited a number of initiatives the DOJ has launched in the past year and detailed a few high-profile arrests of cybercriminals as examples of the government's focus on the issues. Just last month in Seattle, for example, authorities indicted Robert Soloway, known as the "spam king," for his role in sending millions of spam e-mails and selling useless mass e-mailing products and services. "In bringing cases like this, we recognize that spam is not just an annoyance," Gonzales said.
The DOJ has 240 federal prosecutors around the country who are trained to address complex computer crimes, he said. This week, many of them are attending a meeting in Florida with computer industry experts to beef up their training in how to respond to cyber incidents, he said.
The DOJ has a similar number of prosecutors who are specially trained to handle intellectual-property theft investigations. Gonzales pointed to another local arrest from last year that was possible because of the work the DOJ is doing to prosecute such criminals. Scott Laney, a Washington man, was sentenced to five years in prison and fined more than $9 million for his role in acquiring Microsoft software at reduced rates and illegally reselling it at near market value. "The stiff sentence in this case shows modern-day pirates that we take these crimes seriously," Gonzales said.
His biggest concern is that piracy is an easy way for criminals to raise money that could be used for other illicit activities, including terrorism. "It's more than just a question of protecting IP, it's a question of security," he said.
The DOJ is also reaching out to overseas governments in hopes of encouraging them to crack down on intellectual-property crime. Last year, the DOJ provided training to more than 3,000 foreign prosecutors, investigators and judges in more than 100 countries, he said. "IP theft is undeniably an international concern," he said.
Gonzales spoke at an event organized by TechNet Northwest, an association of technology companies that focuses on public policy and politics to help promote the high-tech economy. The event was also promoted by the Discovery Institute, a group that promotes creationism. Around 50 people attended.
Gonzales didn't touch on a more sensitive local issue: The firing of Western Washington U.S. Attorney John McKay late last year. A small group of Seattlites didn't forget though, gathering outside of the hotel where Gonzales spoke to protest the firing and other issues.