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A Cybercrime Crackdown Or Digital-Age Overreach?

Publication Date: 
April 30, 2013
The Washington Post
Jerry Markon

Jennifer Granick, CIS Director of Civil Liberties, spoke with the Washington Post's Jerry Markon on how the line between "ordinary online activity and dangerous criminal conduct" is not clearly defined and can lead to "overreach" by prosecutors handling cyber crime cases. 

Their guns drawn, a dozen federal agents, police and forensics experts kicked in the door of a run-down two-story home in Arkansas shortly after dawn, barged inside and ordered the occupants to put their hands on their heads.

The target of the raid was neither terrorist nor bank robber. He was a 24-year-old computer hacker suspected of handing off stolen e-mail addresses to the media.


Jennifer Granick, director of civil liberties at the Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society, said prosecutors have been guilty of "overreach" in their handling of computer cases such as those of Auernheimer and Swartz.

"Neither the prosecutors nor the [computer crimes] statute have a good idea of what the line is between ordinary online activity and dangerous criminal conduct," Granick said. She added: "The Justice Department is reading into the person's motives based on what their politics are or whether they are a thorn in the government's side. People who are edgy, either politically or otherwise, are in danger."