September 26, 2001

EFF: Proposed law treats all computer trespass as terrorism

Author: JT Smith

San Francisco, California - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) today condemned portions of the
Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) currently under
consideration
in Congress which would treat all computer trespass
as
terrorism.Treating low-level computer crimes as terrorist
acts
is not an appropriate response to recent events,"
said EFF Executive Director Shari Steele. "A
relatively
harmless online prankster should not face a
potential
life sentence in prison."

The ATA includes provisions that dramatically
increase the
penalties for acts that have no apparent
relationship to
terrorism. For instance, the bill would add
low-level
computer intrusion, already a crime under other
laws, to
the list of "federal terrorism offenses," creating
penalties of up to life imprisonment, adding broad
pre-conviction asset seizure powers and serious
criminal
threats to those who "materially assist" or "harbor"
individuals suspected of causing minimal damage to
networked computers.

Attorney General John Ashcroft asked Congress last
week to
pass the ATA, formerly known as the Mobilization
Against
Terrorism Act (MATA), with less than one week of
consideration.

EFF believes the ATA would radically tip the United
States
system of checks and balances, giving the government
unprecedented authority to surveil American citizens
with
little judicial or other oversight.

EFF again urged Congress to act with deliberation
and
approve only measures that are effective in
preventing
terrorism while protecting the freedoms of
Americans.

"The theme of freedom in the face of terrorist
attacks
should include a focus on measures that preserve
rather
than diminish our civil liberties," added Steele.

The DOJ's own analysis of another particularly
egregious
provision of the ATA points out that "United States
prosecutors may use against American citizens
information
collected by a foreign government even if the
collection
would have violated the Fourth Amendment."

"Operating from abroad, foreign governments could do
the
dirty work of spying on the communications of
Americans
worldwide. US protections against unreasonable
search and
seizure won't matter," commented EFF Senior Staff
Attorney
Lee Tien.

Additional provisions of the proposed Anti-Terrorism
Act
include the following measures:

* Make it possible to obtain e-mail message header
information, Internet user web browsing patterns,
and
"stored" voicemail without a wiretap order

* Eviscerate controls on Title III roving wiretaps

* Permit law enforcement to disclose information
obtained
through wiretaps to any employee of the Executive
branch

* Reduce restrictions on domestic investigations
under the
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)

* Permit grand juries to provide information to the
US
intelligence community

* Permit the President to designate any
"foreign-directed
individual, group, or entity," including any United
States
citizen or organization, as a target for FISA
surveillance

* Prevent people from providing "expert advice" to
terrorists

* Extends federal DNA database to every person
convicted
of a federal terrorism offense which includes
low-level
computer intrusions

* Other provisions, whether or not related to online
civil
liberties

Senator Patrick Leahy has attempted to moderate the
ATA
through introduction of the "Uniting and
Strengthening of
America Act" (USAA). While EFF believes USAA would
unnecessarily increase law enforcement surveillance
powers, it is nowhere near as harmful to civil
liberties
as the Bush administration's proposal.

For example, the USAA does not increase penalties
for
low-level computer intrusion. The USAA would retain
existing restrictions on wiretaps, including
requiring
court orders to obtain voicemail messages. However,
both
the ATA and the USAA would expand FISE to include
roving
wiretapes. The USAA would also permit disclosure of
Title
III wiretaps to intelligence officers, whereas the
ATA
would permit disclosure to any federal employee. The
USAA
also would require a court order for grand juries to
provide information to the US intelligence
community,
unlike ATA. Provisions of the ATA permitting the
President to designate targets for FISA
surveillance,
preventing people from providing "expert advice" to
terrorists, and collecting foreign intelligence on
American citizens are not included in the USAA.

EFF's Steele emphasized, "While it is obviously of
vital
national importance to respond effectively to
terrorism,
these bills recall the McCarthy era in the power
they
would give the government to scrutinize the private
lives of American citizens."

The ATA and USAA bills come in the wake of the
Senate's
hasty passage of the "Combating Terrorism Act" on
the
evening of September 13 with less than 30 minutes of
consideration on the Senate floor.

About EFF:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the leading
civil
liberties organization working to protect rights in
the
digital world. Founded in 1990, EFF actively
encourages and
challenges industry and government to support free
expression, privacy, and openness in the information
society. EFF is a member-supported organization and
maintains one of the most linked-to websites in the
world:
http://www.eff.org

The proposed Uniting and Strengthening of America
Act (USAA):
http://www.eff.org/sc/leahy_proposal.html

EFF analysis of the Uniting and Strengthening of
America Act
[coming soon]:
http://www.eff.org/sc/eff_leahy.html

The proposed Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), formerly
Mobilization
Against Terrorism Act (MATA):
http://www.eff.org/sc/ashcroft_proposal.html

EFF analysis of the Anti-Terrorism Act:
http://www.eff.org/sc/eff_ashcroft.html

Attorney General John Ashcroft remarks on response
to
terrorism from FBI headquarters on September 17,
2001:
http://www.eff.org/sc/ashcroft_statement.html

The Combating Terrorism Act (S1562) passed by the
Senate:
http://www.eff.org/sc/wiretap_bill.html

Senator Leahy's testimony on the Combating Terrorism
Act:
http://www.fas.org/sgp/congress/2001/s091301.html

EFF analysis of the Combating Terrorism Act:
http://www.eff.org/sc/eff_wiretap_bill_analysis.html

Why "backdoor" encryption requirements reduce
security:
http://www.crypto.com/papers/escrowrisks98.pdf

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