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Friday, August 06, 2004

The anti-Patriot Act

As one reader here recently noted, cheerleaders of the Bush administration defend the Patriot Act even though they admit that they have neither read it or know what it contains. They presume that it is good because it is against terrorism. I'd be interested to know how they defend the following provisions, which have nothing to do with terrorism:

Several provisions of the USAPA have no apparent connection to preventing terrorism. These include:

Government spying on suspected computer trespassers with no need for court order. Sec. 217.

Adding samples to DNA database for those convicted of "any crime of violence." Sec. 503. The provision adds collection of DNA for terrorists, but then inexplicably also adds collection for the broad, non-terrorist category of "any crime of violence."

Wiretaps now allowed for suspected violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. This includes anyone suspected of "exceeding the authority" of a computer used in interstate commerce, causing over $5000 worth of combined damage.

Dramatic increases to the scope and penalties of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. This includes: 1) raising the maximum penalty for violations to 10 years (from 5) for a first offense and 20 years (from 10) for a second offense; 2) ensuring that violators only need to intend to cause damage generally, not intend to cause damage or other specified harm over the $5,000 statutory damage threshold; 3) allows aggregation of damages to different computers over a year to reach the $5,000 threshold; 4) enhance punishment for violations involving any (not just $5,000) damage to a government computer involved in criminal justice or the military; 5) include damage to foreign computers involved in US interstate commerce; 6) include state law offenses as priors for sentencing; 7) expand definition of loss to expressly include time spent investigating, responding, for damage assessment and for restoration.

As was the case with the War on Drugs, the Patriot Act means that simply redefining things, like website graffiti, as terrorism, the government now has another weapon in its arsenal which will be used to assault American liberties.

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