Proposed Legislation Significantly Affecting Computer Profession

Robert Harley
Tue, 9 Oct 2001 15:17:13 +0200 (MET DST)

The "Provide Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct
Terrorism (PATRIOT) Act".  Groan.

US intelligence at home and abroad failed miserably on 911, so let's
do more of the same!  Yeah, that'll work!

This from Usenix:
October 3, 2001
[Email message sent to USENIX members]

The USENIX Board of Directors has decided to alert our membership that
bills pending before the U.S. Congress or in committee appear to have
a detrimental impact on computer professionals.

We are most concerned about aspects of two proposed bills, the
Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) and the Security Systems Standards and
Certification Act (SSSCA), and how they interact with existing
legislation such as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the Digital
Millennium Copyright Act. The ATA redefines virtually all computer
crime as terrorism, enlarges the maximum penalty to life in prison
without parole, allows broad pre-conviction seizures, and,
furthermore, does this retroactively, removing the existing statute of
limitations. The SSSCA essentially mandates copyright protection in
all digital consumer devices and makes disabling or avoidance of
copyright mechanisms a felony offense.


If you believe that provisions of these or similar acts are
inappropriate we strongly encourage you to contact your elected
representatives as soon as possible and register your opinions.

Update, 5 October 2001

ATA has been renamed PATRIOT. See the ZDNet news article. Some of the
most threatening provisions have been removed, but the bill still
bears close watching.

The ZDNet article is:,4586,5097691,00.html
Anti-terrorism bill to go to House

U.S. lawmakers introduced a bipartisan bill Tuesday that could greatly
expand the electronic surveillance powers of police and ratchet up
penalties relating to certain computer crimes.

Known as the Provide Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and
Obstruct Terrorism (PATRIOT) Act, [...]

"It's incredibly likely to make it through," said an aide to the House
Committee on the Judiciary.

An earlier version of the bill, known as the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA),
was held up over civil rights concerns last week.  The members of the
House Judiciary Committee worked through the weekend and late Monday
to draft the new PATRIOT Act, said a staffer.

If enacted, the new bill would add to the powers of law enforcement
and intelligence communities, allowing them to gather and share
information, detain immigrants, pursue those who cooperate with
suspected terrorists, and freeze the bank accounts and financial
networks of terrorist organizations.

The bill was modified to include a narrower definition of "terrorism"
that could limit some powers granted in the previous draft highlighted
by civil rights advocates. Those powers include near-blanket rights to
wiretap any communications device used by a person in any way
connected to a suspected terrorist; the power to detain indefinitely
an immigrant connected to an act of terrorism; and the classification
of any computer hacking crime as a terrorist offense.

"McCarthy all over again"

Despite that change, the newest bill still falls short of clearly
defining what crimes should be considered terrorist acts [...]


So if I hack Megacorp's servers and add a banner to their Web site
saying "M36AC0RP WU5 0WN3D!!1!" then I'm a terrorist, provided their
lawyers are sufficiently expensive naturally...

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. "
- Benjamin Franklin (Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759)

I remain,
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