House Republicans investigate Biden admin's release of notorious Russian cybercriminal

"Burkov has been described as an 'asset of supreme importance' and possibly 'one of the most connected and skilled malicious hackers ever apprehended by U.S. authorities,'" the Republicans wrote.

Updated: March 14, 2022 - 9:24pm

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Four Ranking House Republicans on Monday sent a letter to National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan inquiring into the Biden administration's release of convicted Russian cybercriminal Aleksei Burkov before the end of his sentence. 

"Burkov has been described as an 'asset of supreme importance' and possibly 'one of the most connected and skilled malicious hackers ever apprehended by U.S. authorities,'" wrote Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jim Jordan (R-OH), Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Michael Turner (R-OH), Homeland Security Committee Ranking Member John Katko (R-NY), and Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Michael McCaul (R-TX).

The letter comes amid ongoing Russian cyberattacks against Ukraine as part of Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion. U.S. intelligence officials have warned that Russia poses a "serious cyber threat" to America.

"The Russian government has a history of using cybercriminals as assets for Russian intelligence services. Some former officials have suggested that Burkov may now be working for Russia, against U.S. interests," the lawmakers told Sullivan.

U.S. law enforcement pursued Burkov for years until Israeli authorities arrested him at the request of the U.S. in 2015, the representatives stated. Russia fought his extradition to the States, but he eventually entered U.S. custody in November 2019. 

Burkov pleaded guilty and received nine years in prison, with credit for time spent incarcerated in Israel and the United States. He was then released one year early on Aug. 25, 2021. An ICE spokesperson said that "Burkov is wanted by Russian authorities," the Republicans wrote.

"In light of the danger posed by Burkov’s activities and President Biden’s statement that Russian cyberattacks against U.S. interests would face 'consequences,' we have questions about the Biden Administration’s decision to allow Burkov to return to Russia," the lawmakers told Sullivan. "We request your cooperation with our investigation into this matter."

The Republicans asked why the Biden administration allowed Burkov's early release from the U.S. and what the U.S. may have received in return for his release. The officials also asked for a list of Russian nationals whom President Joe Biden has released prior to the end of their criminal sentences.

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