MeriTalk News Briefs: DoC OKs Lifting ZTE Ban, Assistant AG Confirmed, House Approves Intel Authorization Bill

Welcome to MeriTalk News Briefs, where we bring you all the day’s action that didn’t quite make the headlines. No need to shout about ‘em, but we do feel that they merit talk.

Commerce Signs Off on Lifting ZTE Ban

In a move sure to anger some Congressional legislators, the Commerce Department signed off on lifting the ban against Chinese telecom firm ZTE. The ban against ZTE has been hotly contested between the White House, which wants to drop the ban, and Congress, which is currently considering an amendment to strengthen the ban. In this latest move, Commerce announced that ZTE would put $400 million into an escrow account, which will be available for U.S. seizure should ZTE violate terms of the settlement. In exchange for the good faith money, Commerce will sign off on lifting the ban.

Assistant AG for Criminal Division Narrowly Confirmed

The Senate voted on Wednesday to confirm Brian Benczkowski as assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division, by a vote of 51-48. The confirmation ends an 18-month period where the division operated without a permanent leader. Benczkowski will be responsible for overseeing the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section at the Justice Department, which prosecutes cyber crime and hacking that is not linked to nation-states. The narrow confirmation reflects partisan division over Benczkowski’s qualifications, with Senate Democrats noting during debate that he has never served as a prosecutor and represented a large Russian bank in a case related to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.

House Approves FY18/19 Intel Authorization Bill

The House today voted 363-54 to approve the Intelligence Authorization Act for fiscal years 2018 and 2019. According to a release from the House Intelligence Committee, the bill authorizes funding levels slightly higher than President Trump’s budget request. The bill, the committee said, provides for increased pay levels for employees with “unique” cybersecurity skills, requires the Director of National Intelligence to publish an unclassified report on foreign intelligence and cybersecurity threats to election campaigns for Federal offices, and creates an Infrastructure Security Center within the Department of Energy to coordinate intelligence on “significant threats.”

MicroTech Names Barry West President

Tysons Corner, Va.-based MicroTech has named Barry West president, where he will oversee the company’s corporate business operations and development as well as the expansion of its cybersecurity and cloud computing business. He was senior advisor and senior accountable official for Risk Management at the Department of Homeland Security, and before that held chief information officer titles at several Federal agencies including the Department of Commerce.

GSA’s Former Deputy CIO Joins Exabeam

Steve Grewal has joined the advisory board for Exabeam, a security intelligence and management solutions provider. Grewal previously served as the General Services Administration’s deputy CIO from March 2016 to February 2018.

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