FBI Director James Comey has told lawmakers the bureau’s most dangerous cybercrime was not classified and would be discussed in public on Wednesday.
In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Comey said the FBI has not been given a “blank check” by Congress for the cybercrime it is investigating.
The agency is now examining what information, if any, it has and what tools are available to it to determine whether to prosecute.
Comey’s comments come as Congress considers legislation to make the cybercriminals in the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA) and other agencies subject to prosecution for violating privacy laws.
That is because they were involved in the illegal hacking of the email of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in the final weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign, and the government is trying to figure out whether that was a crime.
The government has also subpoenaed records from Apple Inc, Google Inc and Microsoft Corp.
The legislation would put the cyberthreats of those who hacked into and pilfered private information on par with those posed by the Nazi regime, Stalinist regime and other communist dictatorships.
That includes the alleged hacks of the DNC and RNC, which were used by the Trump campaign and the GOP to push out the Democrats, Comey told Tapper.
He also said there is evidence of other cyberattacks that were not reported to law enforcement.
But, he added, “The most dangerous thing that we know about this was the hack of the Democratic National Committee.
It was not reported, it was not exposed to the public, it wasn’t made public, and nobody was hurt.
So, that’s why we are so worried about this.
And the most dangerous of all, I would add, was that which happened to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and to the Clinton campaign.”
The FBI is investigating whether the hacking was part of a wider campaign by Russia to influence the election to benefit Trump and boost his candidacy.
The FBI director’s comments were the latest in a week in which lawmakers have been debating the FBI and the cybercrimes it investigates.
The House Oversight Committee held a hearing on Wednesday into the cyberattack on the Democratic party that occurred in the lead-up to the 2016 election.
In its investigation, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said it was “unable to find evidence to support the FBI Director’s assertion that the FBI was not aware of the hack into the Democratic Party or any other hacking attack until the FBI received the DNC emails.”
Comey also said that the hacking of private email accounts of individuals in the Clinton presidential campaign was an act of espionage, which he called a “very serious crime.”
In that case, the FBI had no idea that it was being hacked, Comey added.
Comey said he did not know the email addresses were hacked until after the election.
The Department of Justice also released a statement Tuesday saying the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence were reviewing whether to indict former President Trump for his alleged involvement in the cyberattacks.