A U.S. Justice Department official who resigned after the release of an internal report on the controversial gun-walking program Operation Fast and Furious has joined Steptoe & Johnson LLP as a partner.
Jason Weinstein, who left the Criminal Division in September as a deputy assistant attorney general, will practice in Steptoe's white-collar criminal defense and privacy and data security groups.
In an interview, Weinstein said Steptoe’s strengths in privacy and white collar matters attracted him to the firm. He said he expects privacy work to remain steady given the ever-increasing threat of computer hackers.
"I think we are on the cusp of a real watershed in civil litigation on data breaches and data security," Weinstein said. "You'll also see that where the regulators and the enforcers go, the plaintiffs lawyers are not far behind."
Before joining DOJ, Weinstein was an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York and more recently the violent crime section of the District of Maryland.
Weinstein highlighted his work on a racketeering case in which a New York immigration lawyer and many employees of his firm were convicted in a Chinese immigrant smuggling scheme. Weinstein also assisted in the prosecution of Ed Norris, a former Superintendent of the Maryland State Police who siphoned funds intended for training and equipment to instead finance affairs with a number of women.
In his former role at Main Justice, Weinstein oversaw special sections that focused on cybercrime, organized crime and human rights.
"With my bosses' support I was able to merge five different sections into two and rebuild the gang intelligence center from the ground up to the point it functions better than it ever has," Weinstein said.
But Weinstein's career at DOJ was cut short after the publication of the 471-page Fast and Furious report by the inspector general in September. While it cleared Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. and other top officials of any wrongdoing, it named Weinstein as a senior official with knowledge of both Operation Fast and Furious and its predecessor, Operation Wide Receiver.
"I was the one person in this administration or the last one to identify that there was something wrong," Weinstein said. "I raised the alarm immediately to the highest levels. It was a very politically charged situation and there is pressure to identify someone at a political level."
After he resigned, Weinstein said he received an outpouring of support from the law enforcement community, federal prosecutors and attorneys in private practice. Weinstein said he was humbled by the words of encouragement. When it came time to find a new home, Weinstein said that the firms with which he interviewed were more focused on his experience and track record rather than on the Fast and Furious fracas.
"I have a good reputation in this legal community here and I think that the experience that I have had in the department on the cyber side will really be beneficial to clients," Weinstein said.