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Singapore Computer Crime Laws OK Preemptive Arrest 35

^^MAg^^ points to this Reuters story on CNN which begins "Ultra-strict Singapore has passed some of the world's toughest laws against computer hackers and virus writers, allowing police to arrest suspects before they strike, official documents show."
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Singapore Computer Crime Laws OK Preemptive Arrest

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  • Wasn't there a movie about arresting would-be
    murderers, eg for just planning their crimes?
  • Whew (Score:2, Insightful)

    by vasqzr ( 619165 )

    This coming from a country where chewing gum is illegal
    • Wrong. (Score:4, Informative)

      by The Cydonian ( 603441 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2003 @08:39PM (#7459695) Homepage Journal
      I seem to be posting this on /. each time there's a story on .sg; guess you guys never tire of telling this over and over again, so allow me to karma-whore a bit and explain why this perception is wrong.

      You see, chewing gum per se is not illegal, but the sale of chewing gum is. That's an important distinction; it means you can, for instance, legally import how much ever chewing gum you want into the island, only that you can't sell it. Been like that eversince chewing gum was legislated, mostly as a way of preventing adolescents from sticking left-over gum between the sliding doors of Singapore's ultra-efficient metro system, the MRT (and hence jamming them, causing systemwide disruptions).

      Btw, even that fig-leaf is now mostly gone. The recent Singapore US Free Trade Agreement stipulates legal sales of chewing gum that can be used for "medicinal" purposes through registered/licenced apothecaries. So don't be surprised if you see chewing gum (although perhaps not bubble gum, if you get what I mean) being sold in a pharmacy on Orchard Road or something.

      (The locals that I know call this the "Wrigley Amendment" for some reason. Wonder why, hmmm.)

      • Prohibition didn't make drinking alcohol illegal. And the Marijuana Tax Act didn't make smoking pot illegal either. And of course, the DMCA does't outlaw reverse engineering. But total illegality has been the effects of all such laws.
        • A point well-taken, actually. Didn't know about Prohibition-Era laws or the legal nuances of the War Against Drugs.

          My point, and I probably should have said this earlier itself, was that it's actually fairly easy for Singaporeans to have bubble gum despite its sale being banned; since gum is allowed into Singapore, all that they have to do is to pop into Malaysia, which is a mere 30 minutes away by bus, get the gum, and pop back.

          However, I suppose you are right in a sense; people, by nature, are lazy, and

      • by Sanity ( 1431 ) *
        ...well, I am more concerned about the lack of free speech in Singapore and its paternalistic government than the lack of ability to sell chewing gum freely. What was it William Gibson called it - "Disneyland with a Death Penalty".

        Still, I am glad the US has its priorities right when it comes to pressuring repressive regimes into relaxing their strict laws. Who needs freedom of speech when you can sell chewing gum?!

  • Very scary (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pmz ( 462998 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2003 @05:22PM (#7457299) Homepage

    From the article: "Singapore's Internal Security Act, a Draconian law written by the island's former British colonial rules that allows for detention without trial and was used to halt communism in Singapore in the 1950s."

    While not an advocate of Communism, I am very much an advocate of the First Amendment, and here we have a historical account about internal security laws putting to rest an entire ideology within a country. The USA should take this as a warning, before we end up a government-controlled monoculture or, at best, a government-selected and allowed group of subcultures.

    Of course, we are already headed down this path, because it seems law enforcement is perfectly happy with racial and ethnic profiling, ignoring the reality of the Unabomber and Oaklahoma City So, now, we have law enforcement based on logical fallacy. That's just splendid.
    • Quite frankly, there are too many people in western countries who see no problem with censorship (as long as it's not applied to them) or the reduction and suspension of rights and due process (again, as long as it's not applied to them). Sometimes I wish they could all live in Singapore for a year so they could see the effects firsthand.
      • Re:Very scary (Score:3, Insightful)

        by pmz ( 462998 )

        True. This fact is reflected throughout existing laws. Basically most laws that mention sex fall into this category (i.e., non-missionary-style is illegal in North Carolina, IIRC, and Texas has laws about sodomy). These laws are blatany unconstitutional, yet they get passed anyway, because of the bigotry of people in state and federal congresses. While technically not censorship, the federal income tax laws are as biased as they come, where the government arbitrarily takes from one group and gives it to
    • Er, we already have people detained without even being charged. Look up the domestic abuse laws. You can have some bitch lie to the police, you'll go to jail for at least a week, maybe 2 before they even arrest you, so you can't even call a lawyer or anything.

      It's already almost as bad as it can get.
      • Re:Very scary (Score:2, Insightful)

        by jazman_777 ( 44742 )
        It's already almost as bad as it can get.

        No, it can still get _much_ worse. _And_ it's much worse now than it's been.

      • I call bullshit. The longest you can be held by the cops without them filing paperwork is 72 hours. Realistically, any decent lawyer, even a pro bono or public defender one, will get you back on the streets in less time. (IIRC, the reason for the 72 hour rule is in case of a three day weekend, when the courts are closed for 72 hours, though that hasn't stopped the police from using it during regular work weeks, too.)

        The only other time you can be held without being charged with an actual crime is if you ar
    • by The Cydonian ( 603441 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2003 @09:16PM (#7460029) Homepage Journal
      Two reactions:-

      a) Existing Law:
      sg's CMA (Computer Misuse Act) was already draconian before this Amendment, when compared to its American counterpart (sorry, forgot the name of the law; I'm sure an American lawyer/lawyer-wannabe can cite the right reference here). For a similar type of offence, the maximum penalty prescribed under American law was 1 year, while under the CMA, it was 10 years (and some S$10,000 or so in fines).

      Moreover, it was a classic example of what you Americans apparently call as a "catch-all" law; it was written in so general terms that just about any and every computer crime could be prosecuted under that. For instance, one Singaporean legal expert I was speaking to a few weeks back suggested that the Government could easily have prosecuted spammers under the old law (the article doesn't mention it, but I understand that the new one has now specifically banned spamming)

      The general opinion, then, among academia and policy makers in sg is that the CMA has been a resounding success; they keep pointing out to the fact that incidents of computer crime are remarkably low in sg compared to neighbouring countries (In particular, most people compare it with the high cybercrime rate in Phillipines, which only has a law on e-commerce, not cybercrime in general)

      This, however, misses the fact that Singaporean policy-makers have long had issues in promoting creativity and innovation among the local populace; one of the reasons that's usually pointed out is sg's highly regulated environment. Which, of course, is to not say that cybercrime should be legalised, but instead to suggest that, perhaps, a repressive legal regime stifles creativity; I, for one, really think a 10 year jail term for cracking is a bit too much, and does not promote the sort of freedom that creativity apparently needs.

      (I'm refraining from commenting on the current Amendment 'coz I haven't gone through it)

      I guess some of you Americans must be feeling scared and all that, and no doubt, there will be reactions from EU-ians (to use K5-lingo) and .au-ians lampooning your current administration, but let's face facts, people:- respect for citizens' privacy and liberties is at an all time low in just about any country these days.

      Yup, that's right; you'll be just kidding yourself if you believe that just because your country has law X, you're free from being snooped upon.

      The current theme, apparently, is informal agreements between governmental agencies; so if, say, the CIA can't legally snoop on a suspicious American citizen, it will send an informal request to, say, MI-5 (or whatever the Brit Secret Service is) and ask them to snoop on the said citizen. The Brits will do so vice-versa, and so far, the requests have been honoured by whatever countries are in the loop. And trust me, you'll be amazed if you see the list of countries with such informal agreements; there are some hitherto un-obvious names out there.

      All this, of course, is what I've been gathering in seminars on cybercrime for the last few weeks, and obviously, I can cite these up with actual examples if anyone is interested.

      Which, of course, doesn't mean that Big Brother is out to get you or anything, and frankly, I really detest the way in which Slippery Slope arguments are tossed here on /.; my real point is that borders are less sacred these days than they used to be, even among law enforcement agencies.

      Or in other words, it's plain stupid to think that these draconian laws don't affect you; they do, and for all you know, sg's law enforcement is informally helping your own country's law enforcement as a result of this.

      (Okay, that was extra-ordinarily incoherent, but need some serious sleep asap. Which is also the reason why I could be wrong in a few details, and why I haven't given any links; willing to be corrected/challenged on this)

      • Thanks for the detailed reply. The loopholes in international spying is certainly interesting.

        I really detest the way in which Slippery Slope arguments are tossed here on /.

        I think it's not really a slippery slope, rather it's a long mild grade downhill. We could climb that hill if not for the cascade of 100-ton boulders of complacency just uphill from us.
  • by j-turkey ( 187775 ) on Wednesday November 12, 2003 @06:02PM (#7457938) Homepage
    "Instead of a backpack of explosives, a terrorist can create just as much devastation by sending a carefully engineered packet of data into the computer systems which control the network for essential services, for example the power stations"

    I've heard the same rhetoric from US legislators (something along the lines of using a mouse as a weapon). This is complete bullshit. If anyone should be penalized in a case like this, it's the guy who hooked the power station's computer system (or that of any other essential service) into the public Internet in such a way that a few packets could be as devistating as a bomb which will end lives (these services, IIRC, are not hooked into the public Internet). What the fuck are these people thinking? Just capitalizing (by passing hardcore laws) on peoples' fears, I assume.

    Nothing like this has ever been done before anyway. They're pre-emptively making laws for crimes which have never been committed. This is the exact same thing that the US government did after September, 2001 (except a little more Draconian). I fail to understand the logic. It's not even a deterrent. Terrorists don't give a shit about penalties (IMO) -- they're terrorists! Most of the ones I've read about are happy to end their lives for their cause.

    It doesn't make any sense to me on any level.

    • I fail to understand the logic. It's not even a deterrent. Terrorists don't give a shit about penalties (IMO) -- they're terrorists! Most of the ones I've read about are happy to end their lives for their cause.

      Exactly, they don't! So if you are only allowed to arrest them after the crime is committed, they don't really care. However, if they are locked up behind bars right before they are about to commit a crime, you avoid the potential disaster that follows.

      Aren't you arguing FOR preemptive arrest then
      • Aren't you arguing FOR preemptive arrest then?

        No -- I'm not arguing for pre-emptive arrest. None of these laws change the fact that conspiracy is, and always was a crime. If one plans to commit any crime, it's a conspiracy. There's no need for a specific pre-emptive law that increases the (already very severe) penalties. The only thing that this attempts to do is serve as a deterrent...which as I stated before, doesn't work against terrorists.

        You are also ignoring the meat of my post that "cyberte

    • It will be effective for this sort of "hacking": e ndly/0,4139, 37256-1065283140,00.html?

      The New Paper - 04 Oct 2003 - E-MAIL BOMBER - By Andre Yeo

      China-born PSLE student sends 161,064 messages to teacher

      IF you have a Yahoo! e-mail account, you probably see a list of 25 messages when you open your inbox.

      Now imagine logging in one day - and finding that your inbox has 6,443 such pages. Each page with 25 messages.

      That's what happened to a teacher, whose account was fl
  • none of you get it (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    i realise that draconian, insensitive and unforgiving authoritarian laws are the very hallmarks of southeast asian political systems, but the reason for this is neither theocratic rule nor overly traditional culture.

    in terms of size, singapore is no US. (it is the size of washington dc, however.)

    which means, incidentally, that the misconduct of just a small group of people will affect the rest in a much larger fashion.

    and of course, there is no space at all for corporate competition. linux users in singa
    • how many very small countries are known for liberal rule and are similarly prosperous and orderly?

      Check out Tuvalu or Belgium. Tuvalu has a grand total of 2 people in their jails, and Belgium has legalized marajuana.

      Tuvalu isn't that wealthy, but it is very stable, and Belgium is both wealthy and stable.

"I will make no bargains with terrorist hardware." -- Peter da Silva