- Legislation under consideration in the US Congress to combat terrorism will treat low-level computer crimes as terrorist acts and threaten hackers with life imprisonment, civil liberties group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) says.
EFF says that the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) will 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. The act will also add 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, EFF says.
Treating relatively harmless online pranksters as terrorists is not an appropriate response to the September 11 attacks on the US, EFF executive director Shari Steele says.
The ATA contains many other provisions which severely impact the civil liberties of people living in the US, EFF says. These include:
-- make it possible to obtain email message header information, internet user web browsing patterns, and "stored" voice-mail without a wiretap order
-- remove most controls on 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 US citizen or organisation, as a target for FISA surveillance
-- prevent people from providing "expert advice" to terrorists
-- extend the federal DNA database to every person convicted of a federal terrorism offense which includes low-level computer intrusions
EFF urged Congress to consider less stringent regulations proposed in alternative legislation called the Uniting and Strengthening of America Act (USAA).