New law will treat hackers as terrorists

The US Congress is considering new legislation to combat terrorism that, according to the civil liberties group Electronic...

The US Congress is considering new legislation to combat terrorism that, according to the civil liberties group Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), will treat low-level computer crimes as terrorist acts.

EFF said that the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) will add low-level computer intrusion - already a crime - to the list of acts known as "federal terrorism offences," 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 "harbour" individuals suspected of causing minimal damage to networked computers.

The EFF's executive director, Shari Steele, said in a statement issued on 27 September that treating relatively harmless online pranksters as terrorists would not be not an appropriate response to the 11 September terrorist attacks on the US.

The ATA contains many other provisions that would have a severe effect on the civil liberties of people living in the US, the group asserted. These include:

  • Making it possible to obtain e-mail message header information, Internet user Web browsing patterns, and "stored" voice-mail without a wire tap order.

  • The removal of most controls on roving wire taps.

  • Permitting law enforcement bodies to disclose information obtained through wire taps to any employee of the US government's executive branch.

  • The reduction of restrictions on domestic investigations under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

  • Permitting grand juries to provide information to the US intelligence community.

  • Permitting the US President to designate any "foreign-directed individual, group or entity," including any US citizen or organisation, as a target for FISA surveillance.

  • Preventing people from providing "expert advice" to terrorists

  • The extension the federal DNA database to include every person convicted of a federal terrorism offence. This would include those convicted of low-level computer intrusions

The EFF urged the US Congress to consider less stringent regulations proposed in alternative legislation called the Uniting and Strengthening of America Act (USAA).

Read more on Data centre hardware