US Attorney for Northern District of Alabama named to Department of Justice’s China Initiative

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Jay Town, the US Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, is one of only five US attorneys in the country who are a part of the Department of Justice's China Initiative. The group is led by Assistant Attorney General John Demers, who heads the Department of Justice’s National Security Division.

President Donald Trump said China is a threat to national security by way of 'economic espionage': theft of classified trade or financial information.

"We have an obligation to protect private citizens, private corporations and indeed the United States government from cyber intrusion, from theft of intellectual property," Town stated. "More and more we're recognizing that China is behind it."

Members of the 'China Initiative' will work with companies across the spectrum, technology to defense, to identify threats that cost Americans.

"If we don't know about these intrusions, we certainly can't one, go after the bad guys who stole it," Town explained. "But to figure out ways to prevent against it, to firewall, to counter these cyber attacks so that no real information is stolen."

Town said it's important to understand the value of 'intellectual property' when it comes to protection against China.

"Six hundred billion dollars a year, some estimates are in the trillions," Town explained. "A lot of these invasions, whether it's a cyber intrusion or intellectual property, walking out the door."

The work also stops other countries from stealing defense secrets that could result in Americans' ideas being used against them on the battlefield.

Along with Town, the other US attorneys include four others from those from Massachusetts, California, New York and Texas. They all serve with other Department of Justice leaders, senior FBI officials, and Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, Brian Benczkowski.

The Initiative will pursue high priority Chinese economic espionage and trade secret cases.  It reflects the Department’s strategic priority of countering Chinese national security threats and reinforces President Trump’s overall national security strategy.

“It is an honor and a privilege to join my colleagues in the FBI and Department of Justice to expose any threats to our national security posed by the theft of American innovation, American technology, and American intelligence.  I look forward to the leadership of Assistant Attorney General John Demers,” Town said.  “The Department of Justice remains on the front lines of these threats to our national security.  U.S. companies, many of them with a footprint here in the Northern District of Alabama, spend billions developing intellectual property, trade secrets, and other proprietary information only to see it infringed upon by foreign bad actors.  Whether state secrets or trade secrets, the China Initiative will offer profound resolve to those inimical threats posed to our sovereignty, by China.”

In a press release, Town's office laid out these goals: 

  • Identify priority trade secret theft cases, ensure that investigations are adequately resourced; and work to bring them to fruition in a timely manner and according to the facts and applicable law;
  • Develop an enforcement strategy concerning non-traditional collectors (e.g., researchers in labs, universities, and the defense industrial base) that are being co-opted into transferring technology contrary to U.S. interests;
  • Educate colleges and universities about potential threats to academic freedom and open discourse from influence efforts on campus;
  • Apply the Foreign Agents Registration Act to unregistered agents seeking to advance China’s political agenda, bringing enforcement actions when appropriate;
  • Equip the nation’s U.S. Attorneys with intelligence and materials they can use to raise awareness of these threats within their Districts and support their outreach efforts;
  • Implement the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (FIRMA) for DOJ (including by working with Treasury to develop regulations under the statute and prepare for increased workflow);
  • Identify opportunities to better address supply chain threats, especially ones impacting the telecommunications sector, prior to the transition to 5G networks;
  • Identify Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) cases involving Chinese companies that compete with American businesses;
  • Increase efforts to improve Chinese responses to requests under the Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement (MLAA) with the United States; and
  • Evaluate whether additional legislative and administrative authorities are required to protect our national assets from foreign economic aggression.