WASHINGTON, D.C. —House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) on Wednesday urged the Justice Department and the FBI to investigate whether Federal law was violated by the submission of fake comments — using stolen identities — to the FCC net neutrality commenting system.
Pallone also voiced concern that unknown parties may be attempting to influence federal policy by publicly misrepresenting the views of innocent victims.
In a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, Pallone requested the investigation after reports that 14 people alerted the FCC that their identities were used to file comments without their permission.
Additionally, according to reports, about 450,000 identical comments have been submitted by an unknown party, possibly using information obtained from data breaches.
Federal law prohibits knowingly making any materially false statement or representation in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch.
“I am deeply concerned that the sheer number of these potentially false comments suggest a coordinated attempt to materially mislead the FCC, and therefore a coordinated attempt to break federal law,” Pallone wrote in a letter to Sessions and McCabe. “I urge you to take swift action to investigate who may be behind these comments and, if appropriate under applicable federal law and regulations, prosecute the people behind these fraudulent comments.”
Pallone also expressed concern that since the FCC’s online comment filing system is public, the agency is currently publicly listing these victims’ private information, including their addresses, which makes the situation even more urgent to investigate.
Today’s letter comes two days after Pallone joined other Democratic leaders of the Energy and Commerce and Oversight and Government Reform committees in writing to the FCC and the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) raising concerns about FCC’s cybersecurity preparedness.
Full text of Pallone’s letter can be found here.