Special Counsel Robert Mueller has added a veteran cybercrimes prosecutor to his team of special investigators investigating the Russian hacking of the 2016 presidential election. The addition potentially signals a focus on cybercrimes of the investigation going forward.
The prosecutor, Ryan K. Dickey was assigned to the special counsel in November from the Justice Department’s computer crime and intellectual-property section. He previously worked as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia. He is the first known member of Mueller’s team specializing specifically on cyber issues.
Dickey has previously participated in a number of high-profile computer-crime prosecutions, including the investigation of the Romanian hacker known as “Guccifer.” Guccifer has hacked large tech companies such as Facebook, as well as the accounts of numerous political figures such as former secretary of state Colin Powell, Bill Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal and a member of the George W. Bush family. His hacking is what led to the revelation that Hillary Clinton was using a private email server while serving as Secretary of State.
The Russia investigation carries with it an important cybercrime element – it was the hacking of the DNC’s servers that is at the heart of the investigation. So central is the cybercrime aspect that many legal experts wonder why it took this long for Mueller to bring a cybercrime expert on to his team. Legal experts also speculate that one charge Mueller may be able to bring in the case is a conspiracy to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, if he can prove that there was collusion between members of President Trump’s campaign and individuals acting on behalf of the Russian government.