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Lawmakers Say CFAA Is Too Hard On Hackers 154

GovTechGuy writes "A number of lawmakers are using the death of Internet activist Aaron Swartz to speak out against the Justice Department's handling of the case, and application of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The controversy surrounding the Swartz case could finally give activists the momentum they need to halt the steady increase in penalties for even minor computer crimes."
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Lawmakers Say CFAA Is Too Hard On Hackers

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  • In the DoJ's defense (Score:4, Informative)

    by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @09:32AM (#42894851)

    The CFAA would be an afterthought in that case. The amount of export and national security felonies he'd have committed would be enough to probably make the CFAA not make the cut on the (IIRC) 15 count limit of charges the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure allow to be brought at once.

  • Re:Steady increase (Score:2, Informative)

    by stenvar ( 2789879 ) on Thursday February 14, 2013 @12:24PM (#42896321)

    Not all crimes get harsher penalties. Rape & murder get a comparative slap on the wrist these days.

    People's lives have no value but cost someone money (even imaginary income) and they throw the book at you.

    Swartz was facing a maximum (!) of about a year of prison under federal sentencing guidelines, had been offered a plea bargain of six months, and probably would have been sentenced to even less given his background and stellar law team.

    The average prison sentence for rape in the US is about 11.8 years (

    But don't let facts get in the way of a good rant.

  • Re:Steady increase (Score:5, Informative)

    by anagama ( 611277 ) <> on Thursday February 14, 2013 @01:10PM (#42896961) Homepage

    Except that's not how it works. A plea deal isn't a contract in which you get what you want in exchange for what they want.

    Some have blithely said Aaron should just have taken a deal. This is callous. There was great practical risk to Aaron from pleading to any felony. .... More particularly, the court is not constrained to sentence as the government suggests. Rather, the probation department drafts an advisory sentencing report recommending a sentence based on the guidelines. The judge tends to rely heavily on that "neutral" report in sentencing. If Aaron pleaded to a misdemeanor, his potential sentence would be capped at one year, regardless of his guidelines calculation. However, if he plead guilty to a felony, he could have been sentenced to as many as 5 years, despite the government's agreement not to argue for more. Each additional conviction would increase the cap by 5 years, though the guidelines calculation would remain the same. No wonder he didn't want to plead to 13 felonies. Also, Aaron would have had to swear under oath that he committed a crime, something he did not actually believe. []

"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts." -- Bertrand Russell