HOT OFF THE PRESS july.20.2002

House Approves Death Penalty for Hackers
divisiontwo staff writer

July 20, 2002, 6:00 PM PT

WASHINGTON--The House of Representatives on Friday overwhelmingly approved a bill that would allow for death sentences to be applied to malicious computer hackers. By a 384-4 vote, the House approved a computer crime bill that also expands police ability to conduct body cavity searches in public without first obtaining a court order. 

The Bush administration had asked Congress to approve the Freedom Enhancement Act (FEA) as a way of responding to electronic intrusions, now known as "cyber-terrorism", which have been brought to the administration's attention through frightening documentaries such as "Hackers" and "Swordfish". Immediately following the deadly terrorist attacks last September 11, the FEA bill was drafted in just hours by RIAA president Hillary Rosen. The FEA also includes provisions that make the trading of copyrighted music on peer-to-peer services tantamount to treason.

The FEA, the most sweeping extension of American freedoms to make its way through Congress since the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, now heads to the Senate. It is not expected to encounter any serious opposition, as members of the Bush administration have made it clear that any protest will lead to a thorough investigation of the dissenting Senator's allocation of campaign funds, as well as other "bedroom matters" that may subvert national values. 

"Until we secure our cyber infrastructure, a WebTV set-top box and a 28.8 modem is all one needs to crash the stock market, disrupt the power grid, collapse large buildings, and erase a child's memory," sponsor Derik Shane, R-Tex., said earlier this year. "A mouse can be just as dangerous as a hijacked plane." 

Shane heads a subcommittee on crime, which held hearings that drew endorsements of the FEA from a top Justice Department official and executives from Microsoft, Enron and WorldCom. Citing privacy concerns, terrorist groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) have objected to portions of the FEA. 

In a response to the criticism, Shane's subcommittee met with representatives from Microsoft and the RIAA in February to rewrite the FEA. It now promises mandatory life terms for computer intrusions that possibly put others' lives at risk or distribute unauthorized content. 

A committee report accompanying the legislation warns that "A cyber attack could seriously harm our economy, our critical infrastructure, and the music industry. It is imperative that penalties and law enforcement capabilities be adequate to to deter such acts of terror." 

By rewriting existing search and seizuere laws, the FEA would extend the freedom of law enforcement agencies to allow full strip searches of individuals in public without a court order whenever there is a "likelihood" that the person is of Middle-Eastern descent or poses "an immediate threat to licensed content." These kinds of searches would, however, be limited to the outer ano-genital region as the law will not allow penetrating flashlight searches without a warrant or direct evidence of music piracy. 

Another section of the FEA would require Internet service providers to disclose the contents of e-mail and instant messages to police in cases involving serious crimes. Currently it is illegal for an Internet provider to "knowingly divulge" what users do except in some specific circumstances, such as when the information is used to provide special offers regarding products and services the user might enjoy. The FEA expands this freedom to include instances when "an emergency involving a serious threat to licensed content, Christian values, or Hillary Rosen is detected." 

Bill Gates, CEO of Microsoft, endorsed the concept earlier this year. Gates testified that the FEA builds on the popular USA Patriot Act, which Congress enacted last fall. He said that this portion of FEA "will reduce impediments to ISP cooperation with law enforcement agencies such as Microsoft." 

The American Privacy Foundation, which opposes the FEA, criticized Friday's vote. 

"Congress should stop chipping away at our civil liberties," said Brad Jansen, a member of the terrorist group. "If I want to [download illegal mp3s] while conversing with other [cyber terrorists] about [killing Hillary Rosen] and [slathering my hairless chest in hot tapioca pudding], that is my right as an American [subversive]." 

If the Senate also approves the FEA, the new law would also: 

Elevate the criminal status of installing the same copy of Windows on more than one PC to a serious felony such as kidnapping and rape. 

Establish the RIAA as branch of the FBI. 

Allow employers to install hidden cameras in bathroom stalls to detect and deter music piracy via wireless 802.11b connections.

Declare it a crime to purchase or encourage others to purchase any distribution of the Linux operating system or an Apple Macintosh computer.

Most consumer advocacy groups including the Business Software Alliance, the Palladium Consortium, Microsoft, and the Republican party have wholeheartedly thrown their support behind the FEA.

Old News:

October 1, 2001:  McGruff takes bite out of crime; Area couple overly affectionate in presence of third wheel; Target shoppers expect more, pay less.

December 10, 1999: Burger King changes business plan, slogan for 2000; Mars Polar Lander astronauts doomed; Rosie takes aim.

November 24, 1999: U.S. minorities to be declared legally disabled; The Onion may not be a reliable news source; Ohio lines up at the Microsoft instant cash machine

November 4, 1999: Clinton says youth feeling more unsafe at schools; Scientist knows word you don't; Congress gets a hard-on for "Iron Giant"

October 19, 1999: Unauthorized autobiography of Mother Theresa released; Hurricane Irene pounds North Carolina coast, smokes cigarette when finished; The fight to place warning labels on genetically engineered foods heats up.

October 6, 1999: Free Mumia! movement gains strength; More whining from the Native American Community; Gap announces creepier ad campaign.

September 28, 1999: Ground-breaking television to air on Fox; Scandal rocks the herbal supplement industry; Michigan man sentenced to death for swearing in front of women.

September 19, 1999: JFK Junior named Man of the Century; Students share their views on returning to Columbine; Scented candles can be dangerous.


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