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From 'WarGames' To Aaron Swartz: How U.S. Anti-Hacking Law Went Astray

Publication Date: 
March 13, 2013
Source: 
Cnet.com
Author: 
Declan McCullagh

An article published by Cnet.com discusses how over time the anti-hacking laws to prevent intrusion into NORAD as depicted in the 1983 movie "WarGames" have become so broad and vague, individuals like the late Aaron Swartz have been prosecuted beyond the original intent of the law.  Jennifer Granick, director of civil liberties at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, who has represented hackers facing criminal charges says, "The extraordinary potential sentences are a result of political pressure by the Department of Justice, characteristic of their pressing for higher penalties in all sorts of areas of criminal regulation.".

 

Aaron Swartz, the Internet activist who committed suicide while facing the possibility of a felony criminal conviction, was prosecuted under a law that was never intended to cover what he was accused of doing.

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1984 dealt only with bank and defense-related intrusions. But over the years, thanks to constant pressure from the U.S. Department of Justice, the scope of the law slowly crept outward.

...

"The extraordinary potential sentences are a result of political pressure by the Department of Justice, characteristic of their pressing for higher penalties in all sorts of areas of criminal regulation," says Jennifer Granick, director of civil liberties at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, who has represented hackers facing criminal charges.