EFF has retracted this post
The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Trevor Timm explains a disturbing and overlooked fact about the trial of Bradley Manning; the charge-sheet against him included two separate felonies under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, an ancient anti-hacking statute that has been used as a club to threaten security researchers and activists like Aaron Swartz. The CFAA makes it a separate offense to leak classified information using a computer, such that anyone caught doing so can be charged twice: first under the Espionage Act and again under the CFAA.
This gives tremendous and terrible leverage to prosecutors, who come to the negotiating table with double the ammo: "We'll drop the CFAA charges if you plead guilty to the Espionage Act charges" (or vice-versa). The reality is that there's nothing special about using a computer to leak documents -- indeed, these days you'd be hard pressed not to use a computer -- now that photocopiers, fax machines, phones, cameras and even the daily paper are all built out of computers.
Several Congresses have failed to modernize the CFAA, because the DoJ has forcefully argued that the ability to threaten people with decades in jail for simply using computers has given them the leverage to force "bad guys" to plead guilty, rather than getting a day in court.
The Judiciary Committee basically copy-pasted the Espionage Act into the CFAA, but forbid "use of the computer" rather than accessing the documents. So there you have it: they specifically wanted to make the isolated act of using a computer a separate crime.
In the government’s mind, the Espionage Act can be used to punish a leaker of information, and if that person merely used a computer to get that information, they are guilty of an additional felony. So someone who emails documents to a journalists it got off a government computer will face ten more years per charge, than a government official who photocopied documents he got off a shelf and physically mailed them to the same journalist.
Of course, leaks to the press should never be equated with espionage, regardless of what statute is used. But this is yet another example of the government using knowledge of computers to unjustly ratchet up penalties on a crime that caused little or no harm.
Bradley Manning Faced Harsher Prosecution Merely Because His Leaks Involved a Computer
Warner Bros has sued talent agency Innovative Artists for running an internal-use Google Drive folder that let its clients and staff review movies in the course of their duties. They say the company ripped “screeners” (DVDs sent for review purposes) and put them on the server, whence they leaked onto torrent sites.
Miami Beach mayor Philip Levine has a history of blocking his critics on social media, including Grant Stern, who runs the Photography is Not a Crime group.
Since 2014, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has been representing “Mr Kidane,” an Ethiopian-born US citizen whose computer the Ethiopian government hacked while he was living in DC, in order to extract the identities of his contacts in Ethiopia and target them for violent human-rights-abusing reprisals over their democratic opposition to the country’s ruling dictatorship.
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