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Hackers face life imprisonment under 'Anti-Terrorism' Act
From: InfoSec News <isn () c4i org>
Date: Tue, 25 Sep 2001 03:02:18 -0500 (CDT)
[I never thought I would see the day when one could drive drunk, plow
into a Chevy Impala full of nuns, kill them all, and under this
proposed legislation, that party could likely serve less time in
prison than some poor misguided kid hacking into a .gov or .mil server
to send a shout-out to his friends in an IRC channel. While I am for
prosecuting malicious crackers, this act goes way overboard. - WK]
Justice Department proposal classifies most computer crimes as acts of
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
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
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
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.
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- Hackers face life imprisonment under 'Anti-Terrorism' Act InfoSec News (Sep 25)