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Governor Calls for 'Cyber Court'
From: InfoSec News <isn () c4i org>
Date: Fri, 19 Oct 2001 13:22:57 -0500 (CDT)


By Declan McCullagh 
2:00 a.m. Oct. 18, 2001 PDT  
WASHINGTON -- Malicious hackers, look out. 

A government anti-terrorism commission will recommend that Congress
create a shadowy court to oversee investigations of suspected computer

Gov. James Gilmore (R-Virginia), the commission's chairman, said
Wednesday that federal judges have been far too sluggish in approving
search warrants and eavesdropping of online miscreants.

Instead, Gilmore told the House Science committee, the commission will
recommend that a "cyber court" be created with extraordinary powers to
authorize electronic surveillance and secret searches of suspected
hackers' homes and offices.

Police investigations are currently hamstrung by a lack of "effective
procedures and understanding by many in the judiciary concerning the
nature and urgency of cyber security," Gilmore said.

Wednesday's hearing comes after members of the House and Senate voted
overwhelmingly last week to grant police more surveillance powers,
including the ability to conduct Internet wiretaps without court
orders in some circumstances. President Bush asked Congress for the
legislation after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The Gilmore commission's recommendations tend to carry weight in
Washington: Bush already acted on the group's advice to create an
Office of Homeland Security. Gilmore's current job as chairman of the
Republican Party and his reputation of being tech-savvy -- AOL Time
Warner's online operations are in Virginia -- add to his clout.

Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-Michigan) suggested additional punitive
measures. "I think hackers should also be considered terrorists and
sentences that hackers get should be in line with terrorist
sentences," Ehlers said.

Some drafts of the anti-terrorism legislation that has been wending
its way through Congress have included life prison sentences for
convicted hackers, though the latest version reserves that penalty
only for exceptional cases.

Gilmore offered few details on the proposal to create a hacker-court.
A House press release says only that the commission will recommend the
"establishment of a special 'Cyber Court' patterned after the court
established in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act."

The so-called FISA court is notorious among civil libertarians for
being a secret, seven-judge court that meets behind closed doors to
approve surveillance requests in "national security" cases.
Proceedings are sealed and judges do not require "probable cause" -- a
legal standard required in ordinary investigations -- before ordering
eavesdropping or surreptitious entries to plant listening devices.

Congress created the FISA court in 1978 to oversee foreign
intelligence investigations that were too sensitive to take through
the normal process. The FISA judges review the Justice Department's
requests and, with the exception of one or two cases, have always
approved them.

Because the FISA court meets in secret, and its orders are sealed,
subjects are often unaware they're under surveillance.

Gilmore also called for an "unprecedented partnership between the
public and private sectors" in sharing intelligence and real-time
information. In a nod to privacy, he recommended that Congress create
a not-for-profit entity to oversee the process.

Chairman Sherwood Boehlert (R-New York) seemed to agree, saying,
"market forces have given most in private industry little incentive to
invest in computer security even as their reliance on the Internet

Gilmore went a step further, saying it was necessary to have "an
entity to develop and implement" plans to improve network security.

Boehlert said the committee is beginning to draft legislation on this
topic. He didn't offer any dates, but said he'd take into account the
Gilmore commission's recommendations.

Ben Polen contributed to this report.

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