Punishment That Does Not Fit the Crime


Over Zealous Prosecution?
Over Zealous Prosecution?

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.

Matthew Keys and Anonymous: Has the DOJ learned from the Aaron Swartz case?

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.

James Pilant

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.”


Enhanced by Zemanta

California breaks from 50-state probe into mortgage lenders – via Los Angeles Times

This is very good news. The five major banks had been negotiating for a very broad immunity from their crimes during these last years of foreclosure. As I have pointed out many times before – here, here and here, signing false affidavits is a crime not a mistake. The banks were falsely swearing before a judge that the documents had been examined and everything was in order so that the cases could go forward. But by simply having a nobody sign a document they insured that people who owned their own homes and people that were up on the payments would be thrown out as well as those in default. That’s the idea behind affidavits, that we avoid injustice. The banks want immunity for having done these things.

The Obama Administration wants a quick settlement and no doubt is looking for “look forward, not back” scenario. I am too. I am looking forward to the day when I look back on the Obama years as an American aberration like the pet rock craze or maybe cabbage patch dolls.

The California Attorney General refuses to go along with the broad immunity agreement and wants more for the citizens of California so cruelly stolen from by these mortgage holders.  Justice has a small victory today.

James Pilant

From the Los Angeles Times

California breaks from 50-state probe into mortgage lenders

California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris will no longer take part in a national foreclosure probe of some of the nation’s biggest banks, which are accused of pervasive misconduct in dealing with troubled homeowners.

Harris removed herself from talks by a coalition of state attorneys general and federal agencies investigating abusive foreclosure practices because the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers were not offering California homeowners relief commensurate to what people in the state had suffered, Harris told The Times on Friday.

The big banks were also demanding to be granted overly broad immunity from legal claims that could potentially derail further investigations into Wall Street’s role in the mortgage meltdown, Harris said.

“It has been  a process of negotiating and sitting at a table in good faith, but ultimately I have decided that we have to go our own course and take an independent path. And that decision is because we need to bring relief to Californians that is equal to the pain California experienced, and what is being negotiated now is insufficient,” Harris told The Times in an interview.

Enhanced by Zemanta

David Lazarus: Retail Credit Card Fees, Who Should Pay?

David Lazarus writes for the Los Angeles Times. His column today deals with who should pay retail credit card fees.
Whenever you buy something from a retailer with a credit card, they pay an additional fee for processing, apparently about 1%. However, on a $300 dollar purchase that $3 and after a while it adds up. Congress has before it a new bill which will place supervision over these fees. The retailers want to be able to charge extra to consumers for using credit cards. The banks want things to stay the way they are. But what the banks are really frightened of is revealing how much it actually cost them to process these transactions.
These fees may have made sense in the early days of slow computers and inexperience, but your current computer be it a laptop or desktop could run thousands of transactions by itself. Does it cost a dollar to process a one hundred dollar credit card transaction? I don’t think so.
Lazarus has an elegant solution. Find out what the transactions cost and lower them to a more reasonable level. Banks are entitled to profit from their activities but without consumer and retailer knowledge of what actually takes place here, we have less of a service than a magical transference of your money by a priest of finance. That is not fair.

James Pilant

Ethics Roundup – Sunday – June 6th, 2010

Could British Petroleum cease to exist? Check out this article from Minyanville.

Chris MacDonald in his June 5th blog entry discusses the play between rapidly developing technological complexity and regulatory science. MacDonald quotes from Kenneth Rogoff’s article, The BP Oil Spill’s Lessons for Regulators.

Chris MacDonald in a totally successful effort to keep my off balance has a new post on June 6th. Entitled Galarraga’s Corvette, MacDonald while admitting that everyone is entitled to an opinion points out that even though tax payer dollars are involved in the company’s continued operation that doesn’t mean every corporate action should be second guessed. He says managers are there to manage. I doubt that Chris MacDonald will be very surprised (or bothered) that I don’t always agree with him but he’s dead on this time. Nit picking day to day decisions is a waste of everybody’s time and the giveaway was a shrewd PR move. jp

Dani Rodrik writing in Project Syndicate, A World of Ideas, argues that the nation-state, globalization and democracy are all incompatible with each other and that at the most we can only have two of the three. It’s a thought provoking argument.

Gael O’Brien writing on her blog, The Week in Ethics, discusses the message of John Wooden. During his lifetime, Wooden created a “pyramid of success” comprised of fifteen elements. (The diagram is included in the article.)

Edward Lotterman writing in Twin Cities dot com discusses how salaries in different currencies vary, can be compared effectively and when they can’t be compared effectively. It’s a pretty piece of writing.

Jeffrey Seglin writing in his blog, The Right Thing, tells us that Panera Bread is opening a store where you pay what you believe is appropriate for their baked goods. The new store is opening in Clayton, Missouri. Seglin is interested in your opinion. I’d go to his site and let him know. (There was only one comment when I left.)

Rod Dreher writes that the BP spill is a rolling apocalypse.

Michael Hiltzik writing on the Los Angeles Times business page discusses online privacy. He is a champion of preserving the rights of the individual and when he talks people should listen. This is an issue of considerable importance to me.

Marian Wang writing in ProPublica reports that illnesses reported by the clean up workers on the gulf coast are caused by the oil and not by the host of other possibilities the oil company or the government will cook up.

Elizabeth Warren prophecies the coming collapse of the middle class.