Punishment That Does Not Fit the Crime
Matthew Keys and Anonymous: Has the DOJ learned from the Aaron Swartz case?
“It was part of the conspiracy to alter the online version of a news feature published on the web site of the Los Angeles Times,” the indictment alleges, and the “conspiracy” was successful, I guess: a single Los Angeles Times news story was altered to display humorously false content (“Pressure builds in House to elect CHIPPY 1337”) for like 30 minutes. That’s it. But judging by the indictment, the government probably has a case against Keys on this charge, however unfair it may seem.
Nonetheless, the charges under the CFAA seem outrageously severe. Keys is charged with transmitting and attempting to transmit malicious code, which in this case, as far as I can tell, just means that he shared his login and password with members of Anonymous. Each of these charges carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. The trouble with our current computer laws is that they are so ridiculously vague that they can be used to justify garbage charges like these. When the CFAA was passed in 1984, most of the world wasn’t networked, and the law was meant to prosecute sophisticated, malicious hackers who targeted government computers or the financial system. Now the entire world is networked, but the CFAA still reads as if universities and the Department of Defense are the only institutions with Internet access. Why hasn’t the law been changed to sufficiently reflect the times? I suspect the CFAA has been left intentionally vague so that prosecutors can use it as a bludgeon—a catch-all statute that amps up prison time and frightens suspects into plea-bargaining.
The DOJ has apparently learned nothing. In this case the damage is so small, it would be hard to justify a misdemeanor much less felonies. Currently he faces twenty years and a half-million dollar fine.
He assisted a hacker group in changing one headline. Does the DOJ have no sense of proportion? Apparently no, and no sense of irony or insight either.
We have to change the law. The DOJ is out of control, and removing the law’s overbreath is the only way to cure the problem.
We make the penalties in the law proportionate to the harm done, something the prosecutors could have been considered bright enough to do on their own.
Until we change the law, they’re just going to keep on charging decades of jail time to force a guilty plea. Good tactics, but little relationship to justice.
From around the web –
From the web site, Caitlin Rondino:
Matthew Keys, social media editor at Reuters, has been formally accused for his involvement in the hacking of the L.A. Times website. His indictment was announced this past Thursday and online activists are outraged declaring that the Dept. of Justice never learned its lesson after the Aaron Swartz case. Swartz committed suicide in January. His family blames the justice system and the government’s ability to intimidate.
Keys provided log in passwords for the content management system to a member of the hacker group Anonymous. In 2010 The hacker group changed a headline on the L.A. Times website referencing another hacking group. He is being charged under the 1984 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Three charges have been made against him, estimating almost $250,000 and a minimum of five years in prison.
From around the web site, Ramy Abdeljabbar’s Palestine and World News:
Keys faces three counts in all — for a conspiracy to transmit information to damage a protected computer, for transmitting information to damage a protected computer and for attempted transmission of information to damage a protected computer.
“Each of the two substantive counts carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000. The conspiracy count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000,” according to an updated version of the press release. The indictment also contains a notice of forfeiture provision for property traceable to the offense.
From the web site, Leak Source:
The deputy social media editor for Reuters has been indicted by the US Justice Department for allegedly conspiring with members of the hacktivist movement Anonymous.
According to a Justice Department statement released on Thursday, 26-year-old Matthew Keys of Secaucus, New Jersey was charged in the Eastern District of California with a number of counts involving his alleged cooperation with the international hacking group while employed as the web producer of Sacramento-based television station KTXL FOX 40.
Keys, confirms the DoJ, has been charged “with one count each of conspiracy to transmit information to damage a protected computer, transmitting information to damage a protected computer and attempted transmission of information to damage a protected computer.”