A Nation of Criminals

More

Further to my previous post, I recommend Stephen Carter's column for Bloomberg View on the American zeal for making more and more conduct criminal. Referring to Douglas Husak's book, Overcriminalization, he writes:

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act -- the principal statute under which Swartz was charged -- is a good example of Husak's point [about the government's expanding "power to arrest and prosecute nearly everyone"]. Enacted in the 1980s, before the Internet explosion, the statute makes a criminal of anyone who "intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access" and, in the process, obtains financial information, government information or "information from any protected computer."

What's wrong with this language? Consider: You're sitting in your office, when suddenly you remember that you forgot to pay your Visa bill. You take a moment to log on to your bank account, and you pay the bill. Then you go back to work. If your employer has a policy prohibiting personal use of office computers, then you have exceeded your authorized access; since you went to your bank website, you have obtained financial information.

Believe it or not, you're now a felon. The likelihood of prosecution might be small, but you've still committed a crime.

Carter recommends, as a partial remedy for prosecutorial excess, a measured rolling back of prosecutors' immunity from civil liability. It's a very good article.

Jump to comments
Presented by
Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity


Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

CrossFit Versus Yoga: Choose a Side

How a workout becomes a social identity

Video

Is Technology Making Us Better Storytellers?

The minds behind House of Cards and The Moth weigh in.

Video

A Short Film That Skewers Hollywood

A studio executive concocts an animated blockbuster. Who cares about the story?

Video

In Online Dating, Everyone's a Little Bit Racist

The co-founder of OKCupid shares findings from his analysis of millions of users' data.

Video

What Is a Sandwich?

We're overthinking sandwiches, so you don't have to.

Video

Let's Talk About Not Smoking

Why does smoking maintain its allure? James Hamblin seeks the wisdom of a cool person.

Writers

Up
Down

More in National

Just In