The Department of Justice has confirmed that those who intentionally spread the virus will be charged with terrorism. The DOJ also introduced other measures.
Over the past few weeks, the United States has seen an exponential increase in the number of COVID-19 cases. Sadly, some of these cases may have been a result of intentionally spreading the deadly virus. Whether it is NBA player Rudy Gobert "jokingly" touching all the mics at a press conference or neo-Nazi groups planning to spread the virus to Jewish communities, the intentional dissemination of Coronavirus is a dangerous game to play during this public health crisis. Thankfully, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has officially stepped in. Now, intentionally spreading the virus will be labeled a terrorist act. The DOJ also introduced several other measures, CNN reports.
In a memo recently released by Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, he noted that the virus "appears to meet the statutory definition of a 'biological agent.'" Therefore, anyone who engages in the "purposeful exposure and infection of others" can be charged with terrorism. He affirmed to federal law enforcement agencies and United States attorneys on Tuesday, "Such acts potentially could implicate the Nation's terrorism-related statutes." "Threats or attempts to use COVID-19 as a weapon against Americans will not be tolerated," he stated. "We must do the best we can to protect Americans' rights and safety in this novel and troubling time."
Details of what constitutes the "intentional spread" of COVID-19 are, at present, unclear. It was also not mentioned whether such instances were confirmed or whether this was simply a precautionary measure. Nonetheless, this move is only part of the United States' rather aggressive approach to tackling the public health crisis. In addition to deeming the intentional spread of the virus an act of terrorism, Deputy Attorney General provided information about a "wide range of fraudulent and criminal" reported schemes related to the epidemic. At a time when citizens of the United States are struck by the fear of losing their lives to a disease without a cure or vaccine, it is disheartening to know that there are individuals out there who would try to profit from this fear.
Some of these schemes include robocalls offering fraudulent sales of respirator masks with no intention to deliver as well as fake coronavirus apps and websites that only install malware on a user's device. Rosen stated, "Capitalizing on this crisis to reap illicit profits or otherwise preying on Americans is reprehensible and will not be tolerated." His memo comes after Attorney General William Barr ordered federal prosecutors to make investigations of fraudsters and hackers exploiting the pandemic a top priority. In the Attorney General's memo, he wrote, "The pandemic is dangerous enough without wrongdoers seeking to profit from public panic and this sort of conduct cannot be tolerated. It is essential that the Department of Justice remains vigilant in detecting, investigating, and prosecuting wrongdoing related to the crisis."
Further to this, the Department of Justice set up a task force to deal with issues of hoarding and price gouging in relation to supplies urgently needed for the fight against COVID-19, such as masks and hand sanitizers. Hoarding of these supplies, Barr stated, would be prosecuted. Finally, he assured citizens that the Department would remain open throughout this public health crisis. He affirmed, "We will ensure that the Department's law enforcement functions operate effectively during this outbreak. It is vital that we work together to safeguard our justice system and thus the safety and security of our nation."