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Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco Delivers Remarks on Disruptive Technologies at Chatham House


United Kingdom

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Good afternoon. Thank you for that warm welcome.

It is great to share the stage with Paddy [McGuinness] and Sir Peter [Westmacott] – two great UK leaders in national security and foreign policy and who were great colleagues and partners to me when I served as President Obama’s Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor.

In those days, our work and partnership focused on counterterrorism and confronting new challenges in cyberspace.

Those challenges, of course, are still very much present – but today, the U.S.-UK and our allies also stand together against new threats:

  • Against autocracies projecting power at home and abroad;
  • Against adversaries challenging norms – from launching spy balloons to unleashing the most significant invasion in Europe since the Second World War; and
  • Against rogue nation-states seeking to undermine democracy and the rule of law.

We see this aggression playing out not only on battlefields but in economic zones and information spaces – in cyberattacks, the vacuuming up of sensitive data and the exploitation of restricted technology.

We also see some countries threatening our national security through foreign investment designed to access sensitive data and key technologies.

Today, autocrats seek tactical advantage through the acquisition, use and abuse of disruptive technology: innovations fueling the next generation of military and national security capabilities.

They want to acquire technology by any means possible — not only to fuel surveillance and repression at home and abroad, but to gain strategic dominance.

The U.S., the UK and our allies confront these national security challenges daily. And in the United States, the Department of Justice is at the center of efforts – working with our allies – to combat these threats.

As the lead law enforcement and domestic counterintelligence agency in the United States, the Justice Department is uniquely positioned with our dual national security and law enforcement authorities and missions – to respond to this threat landscape. And that’s exactly what we’re doing.

Our prosecutors, agents, and analysts employ law enforcement tools – often in novel ways – to counter national security threats. And we use our intelligence tools to provide policymakers the vital information they need to shape how we respond.

We are disrupting cyberattacks, enforcing sweeping sanctions, analyzing foreign investments in U.S. businesses to detect and deter bad actors – all to protect American technology and know-how from being exploited by our adversaries.

First, when it comes to cyberspace, we see nation-states – often acting in concert with criminal groups in a new, blended, double threat – engaging in more sophisticated, brazen, and dangerous attacks.

They’re threatening core public institutions like hospitals and schools, and routinely probing our critical infrastructure for vulnerabilities.

They use cyber armies and proxies — hackers for hire and organized criminal networks — in ways that flout international norms and risk our collective security.

As we have done before against terrorism, we are working with allies and partners to combat cyber threats by innovating and using new tools to turn the tables on the hackers.

Last year, working with the UK in operation “Cyclops Blink,” we disrupted a global botnet controlled by the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency.

We disabled Russia’s control over those devices before they could be deployed in an attack – against Ukraine, against us, or our allies. Our work protected innocent victims in the United States, the UK, and around the world.

This leads me to the second threat: the weaponization of data. Personal data is the fuel for our adversaries’ surveillance and intelligence states.

Whether through traditional or corporate espionage, our adversaries are targeting troves of data.

As our Intelligence Community has noted, China leads the world in using surveillance and censorship to keep tabs on its populations, repress dissent, and counter perceived threats abroad.

And the Chinese government is not just hacking to gather our data. China’s doctrine of “civil-military fusion” means that any advance by a Chinese company with military application must be shared with the state. And its national security law requires any company doing business in China to make its data accessible to the government.

So if a company operating in China collects your data, it is a good bet that the Chinese government is accessing it.

The ability to weaponize data will only advance over time, as artificial intelligence and algorithms enable the use of large datasets in increasingly sophisticated ways. The data obtained today could be used in new and frightening ways tomorrow. 

This brings me to the third piece of the threat landscape: the national security threats posed by the use and abuse of disruptive technologies by autocratic governments.

No matter what means they employ – cyber theft, sanctions evasion or exploiting foreign investment – we must guard our technologies from adversaries who would use them against us.

The Department of Justice is using all its authorities to combat this threat – fighting cybercrime, combating sanctions evasion, and – most recently – updating our regulatory tools to ensure we protect against foreign investments that threaten our national security.

For decades, the United States has screened foreign investment in U.S. companies for potential national security risks.

Through the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. — known by its acronym as CFIUS — the Justice Department helps prevent foreign threat actors from exploiting those investments to acquire U.S. assets and technology while supporting the benefits that flow from open investment.

But CFIUS began in an era of brick-and-mortar transactions. Today, the greatest risks come not from investment in our physical assets, but from transactions where datasets, software, and algorithms are the assets.

That’s why we’ve sharpened the focus of CFIUS on transactions that pose a threat to data security, cybersecurity and the resilience of critical supply chains.

The President also directed CFIUS to consider if foreign investments in a particular industry, made over time, threaten national security or our technological leadership.

But risks from foreign investment run in both directions: we must also pay attention to how our adversaries can use private investments in their companies to develop the most sensitive technologies, to fuel their drive for a military and national security edge.

So, we are exploring how to monitor the flow of private capital in critical sectors and ensure that our own “outbound investment” in dual-use technology doesn’t provide our adversaries with a national security advantage.

Close collaboration with the UK will be crucial to getting this right.

Beyond foreign investment screening, we are employing other tools to control exports of technology.

Last fall, the President signed the CHIPS Act to ensure U.S. leadership in global chip production. The Act invests in critical chip research and manufacturing and restricts transfers to adversary nations where those transfers pose a national security risk.

At the same time, our Commerce Department has imposed new export controls on advanced computing and semiconductor components – cracking down on the PRC’s ability to acquire certain high-end chips.

Justice Department prosecutors will be vigorously enforcing these rules, as well as those that control the export of other sensitive technologies.

That’s why, today, I am excited to announce the launch of a new initiative – the Disruptive Technology Strike Force.

A collaboration of U.S. law enforcement – led by the Justice and Commerce Departments – the Strike Force brings together our top experts to attack tomorrow’s national security threats today.

We will use intelligence and data analytics to target illicit actors, enhance public-private partnerships to harden supply chains, and identify early warning of threats to our critical assets, like semiconductors.

Our goal is simple but essential – to strike back against adversaries trying to siphon our best technology.

The Department of Justice is deploying all its tools to respond to nation-states who would exploit technology to undermine our alliances, our national security and the rule of law.

Our most critical tool in this effort is one we don’t share with our adversaries – it is the power of our partnerships, particularly the one we have shared with the UK for so very long.

Thank you for having me – I look forward to the discussion.

National Security
Updated February 16, 2023