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Hackers face life imprisonment under 'Anti-Terrorism' Act

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  • Hackers face life imprisonment under 'Anti-Terrorism' Act

    Hackers face life imprisonment under 'Anti-Terrorism' Act
    Justice Department proposal classifies most computer crimes as acts of terrorism.

    By Kevin Poulsen
    Sep 23 2001 11:00PM PT

    Hackers, virus-writers and web site defacers would face life imprisonment without the possibility of parole under legislation proposed by the Bush Administration that would classify most computer crimes as acts of terrorism.

    The Justice Department is urging Congress to quickly approve its Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), a twenty-five page proposal that would expand the government's legal powers to conduct electronic surveillance, access business records, and detain suspected terrorists.

    The proposal defines a list of "Federal terrorism offenses" that are subject to special treatment under law. The offenses include assassination of public officials, violence at international airports, some bombings and homicides, and politically-motivated manslaughter or torture.

    Most of the terrorism offenses are violent crimes, or crimes involving chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons. But the list also includes the provisions of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act that make it illegal to crack a computer for the purpose of obtaining anything of value, or to deliberately cause damage. Likewise, launching a malicious program that harms a system, like a virus, or making an extortionate threat to damage a computer are included in the definition of terrorism.

    To date no terrorists are known to have violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. But several recent hacker cases would have qualified as "Federal terrorism offenses" under the Justice Department proposal, including the conviction of Patrick Gregory, a prolific web site defacer who called himself "MostHateD"; Kevin Mitnick, who plead guilty to penetrating corporate networks and downloading proprietary software; Jonathan "Gatsby" Bosanac, who received 18-months in custody for cracking telephone company computers; and Eric Burns, the Shoreline, Washington hacker who scrawled "Crystal, I love you" on a United States Information Agency web site in 1999. The 19-year-old was reportedly trying to impress a classmate with whom he was infatuated.

    The Justice Department submitted the ATA to Congress late last week as a response to the September 11th terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania that killed some 7,000 people.

    As a "Federal terrorism offense," the five year statute of limitations for hacking would be abolished retroactively -- allowing computer crimes committed decades ago to be prosecuted today -- and the maximum prison term for a single conviction would be upped to life imprisonment. There is no parole in the federal justice system

    Those convicted of providing "advice or assistance" to cyber crooks, or harboring or concealing a computer intruder, would face the same legal repercussions as an intruder. Computer intrusion would also become a predicate offense for the RICO statutes.

    DNA samples would be collected from hackers upon conviction, and retroactively from those currently in custody or under federal supervision. The samples would go into the federal database that currently catalogs murderers and kidnappers.

    Civil liberties groups have criticized the ATA for its dramatic expansion of surveillance authority, and other law enforcement powers.

    But Attorney General John Ashcroft urged swift adoption of the measure Monday.

    Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, Ashcroft defended the proposal's definition of terrorism. "I don't believe that our definition of terrorism is so broad," said Ashcroft. "It is broad enough to include things like assaults on computers, and assaults designed to change the purpose of government."

    The Act is scheduled for mark-up by the committee Tuesday morning.

  • #2
    This seems like overkill, people who just deface sites don't deserve life in prison. I think the feds are trying to use the guise of anti-terrorism to crack down on hackers. This is just exploiting Sep. 11


    • #3
      Originally posted by hdra
      This seems like overkill, people who just deface sites don't deserve life in prison. I think the feds are trying to use the guise of anti-terrorism to crack down on hackers. This is just exploiting Sep. 11
      If you don't deface sites and you wont have to worry about it.


      • #4
        actually I think the arguement is that defacements dont warrant such stiff penalties especially when the act may not even fall under the definition of terrorism.

        gernerally people deface websites just think people will listen to their rant b/c it is forced. sort of like graffitti. some graf is art but some is vandalism rants. like billboard liberations etc.

        anyway to get off subject, it is important for us to dictate the law. the public is supposed to determine what we want as law and it is the jobs of our reps to create those laws and the judical(sp?) to determine if it is constitutional. period.
        "I'm not a robot like you. I don't like having disks crammed into me... unless they're Oreos, and then only in the mouth."


        • #5
          Surely a judge would have to decide whether a particular crime fits under the ATA, by looking at how much real damage it was intended to cause, or how much damage it did actually cause. I'm certain that no judge in the US would call Eric Burns (mentioned above) a terrorist. When you look at how much damage a hacker could potentially do to a country, I'd say it is important to have things like this covered in the law. We've just got to entrust judges to interpret the laws correctly.


          • #6
            As more judges become tech-savvy, it should get better.

            But still, I'm against just having laws on the books, that are sometimes applied and sometimes not.

            I think I'm starting to get this... it's easy when it's just one sentence. Kinda gets exponential-ish after that tho... common sense... hrm... loosing focus... er... ah... bye.

            :) Den
            this too shall cgange


            • #7
              I believe if you look at our president you will know exactly why he wants this to happen. I mean common, the guy is a redneck and would love for horses to be the main source of transportation in America.
              -/\-God Bless my Keyboard-/\-


              • #8
                Hell, I miss the horses. You don't see them like you used to, even in 'rural' areas. [sigh]sigh[/sigh]

                Really. =]

                On the really tho, we should always be on our toes, (note that I usually sit on my ass [meta-somethingly]) lest our rights and liberties be usurped and tirany prevail [until the next revolution].

                I voted for kronos, or HEYSI. ;)
                this too shall cgange


                • #9
                  Why the Anti-Terrorism Bill is illegal

                  Correct me if I'm wrong, but, according to the Constitution, the government can't arrest you for something that you did BEFORE the bill was passed right? That's the impression that I got anyway.



                  • #10
                    Yeah, but consistency with the constitution is pretty much optional these days.


                    • #11
                      But, if anyone knows a good lawyer, we can declare it unconstitutional when they pass it, and get it nullified before anyone gets fried by it.



                      • #12
                        society.. o my...

                        I think we can add the word terrorism to the pile of meaningless words in the English language.. I was under the impression that it meant specific acts performed by foreign bodies specifically with some political intent.. seems like it's a little more ambiguous than that now.. if (offesive == terrorism) { alert("Do Not Pass Go"); }
                        if it gets me nowhere, I'll go there proud; and I'm gonna go there free.


                        • #13
                          Yeah! Why arn't we adding to the esperanto pile, or something? Latin could use some, it's been pretty stagnant-nent? sp? lately.

                          Ha ha. Nothing is meaningless (cept meaningless, of course).

                          It is a self-organizing system, so far as I can tell.
                          this too shall cgange


                          • #14
                            Yep, it's overkill alright!

                            Holy crap batman, nothing like using a stick of dynomite to swat a fly with. Almost like martial law in the sense that "they" can or attempt to control the actions of everyone without having to keep watch on the masses. Cuz they know sooner or later someone will be used as an example and the masses will tremble and repent...and will come over to the "white" side. Now if you actually are a bad guy, killing or destroying large amounts of stuff, then you'd be a chucklehead to think you'd not be hunted and punished. Can't we all just get along? hehe Peace, Love and Chocolate Milk.


                            • #15
                              Re: society.. o my...

                              Originally posted by c0nv3r9
                              I think we can add the word terrorism to the pile of meaningless words in the English language..
                              If you haven't already checked out this thread:
                              check it out and notice how hack* and terror* have started to be used as if they were a variant of the same meaning...