This article was published on June 14, 2021

Another Biden gaffe? Joe says he’s ‘open’ to exchanging cybercriminals with Russia

The White House has backtracked on his comments

Another Biden gaffe? Joe says he’s ‘open’ to exchanging cybercriminals with Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin and American counterpart Joe Biden recently agreed that relations between the two nations are a low point, but the two leaders may have found some common ground on the issue of cybercrime.

Biden said at the G7 summit on Sunday that he was “open” to Putin’s proposal for the two countries to exchange cybercriminals:

I’m open to — if there’s crimes committed against Russia that, in fact, are — and the people committing those crimes are being harbored in the United States — I’m committed to holding them accountable. And I’m — I heard that; I was told, as I was flying here, that he said that. I think that’s — that’s potentially a good sign and progress.

The comments immediately sparked concern that Biden would consider extraditing US hackers to Russia if Moscow did the same for Washington.

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However, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said later that the president was not contemplating a “prisoner swap:”

What he was talking about was accountability and the idea that responsible countries should hold — should be held accountable to not harboring cybercriminals, and to bringing cybercriminals to justice. He’s prepared to do that in the United States. He’d like to see Vladimir Putin do that. This is not about exchanges or swaps, or anything like that.

Biden’s remarks may have been another of his legendary verbal missteps, but cybercrime will be a significant topic of discussion when the two premiers meet in Geneva on June 16.

The Biden administration has already imposed sanctions against Moscow over the country’s alleged 2020 election interference and cyberattacks. The White House also recently linked Russia to the attack against global meat processing giant JBS.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Wednesday that the “issue of ransomware attacks” would be discussed during the Geneva meeting.

Biden, however, might be a bit more careful this time about discussing the exchange of cybercriminals.

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