It was recently reported by Newsmax that House Republicans are looking into why the Biden administration released a Russian cyber criminal early from federal custody last summer.
This comes as U.S. officials warn of potential cyberattacks from Russia against the West amid its invasion of Ukraine.
Top Republicans on the House Judiciary, Homeland Security, Intelligence and Foreign Affairs committees are demanding answers from national security adviser Jake Sullivan on why Aleksei Burkov, whom they label a ”notorious Russian cyber criminal,” was released early.
Fox News reported that the lawmakers sent a letter to Sullivan at the National Security Council since he had a major role in coordinating the interagency process, which involved numerous federal agencies.
The letter, authored by GOP Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, John Katko of New York, Michael McCaul of Texas and Mike Turner of Ohio, stated that ”Burkov has been described as an ‘asset of supreme importance’ and ‘one of the most connected and skilled malicious hackers ever apprehended by U.S. authorities.”’
In addition, the letter said that ”in light of the danger posed by Burkov’s activities and President Biden’s statement that Russian cyber attacks against U.S. interests would face ‘consequences,’ we have questions about the Biden Administration’s decision to allow Burkov to return to Russia. We request your cooperation with our investigation into this matter.”
”The decision to prematurely release Burkov is curious given the lengths to which the U.S. government went to secure Burkov’s arrest,” the letter continued, referring to authorities’ years-long pursuit of Burkov ”on hacking-related charges, including identify theft, wire fraud, computer intrusion, and money laundering.”
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Even though Burkov pleaded guilty and was sentenced to nine years in prison in June 2020, he was deported to Russia in August 2021. Burkov was initially arrested in December 2015 by Israeli authorities, at the U.S. government’s request. Despite Russia’s fight against Burkov’s extradition, the Trump administration eventually got Burkov to the U.S. in November 2019.
Burkov ran two illegal websites, one of which, Cardplanet, ”sold credit and debit card information, many of which belonged to U.S. citizens and resulted in over $20 million in fraudulent purchases on U.S. cards,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter.
The other website ”served as an exclusive ‘invite-only club’ where some of the world’s most dangerous cyber criminals could advertise stolen goods and criminal services,” they added.
The lawmakers noted that although Burkov was given ”credit for time served while incarcerated both in Israel and the United States,” ”the Biden Administration released Burkov at least a year early on August 25, 2021 when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials escorted him onto a plane destined for Moscow.”
The letter continued: ”[I]n light of the Biden Administration’s sudden reversal on Burkov’s case, the potential that he may now be working against U.S. interests, and to better understand the Administration’s efforts to address the pervasive threats posed by Russian cybercriminals, we respectfully request the following information.”
The letter asked for an explanation as to why the administration granted Burkov early release, an assessment of where he is now, if he is ”appropriately being held accountable for his crimes in Russia,” and ”what, if anything, the U.S. received in return for his release to Russia.”
The lawmakers also requested a list of Russian nationals in U.S. custody pursuant to either criminal charges or convictions since President Joe Biden took office in January 2021 who have been released before their sentences were complete. And they demanded that Sullivan provide the information by March 28.