[ISN] Revamped anti-terrorism bill hits House

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Wed Oct 03 2001 - 00:17:45 PDT

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    By Robert Lemos
    Special to CNET News.com 
    October 2, 2001, 1:00 p.m. PT 
    Update: U.S. lawmakers introduced a bipartisan bill Tuesday that could
    greatly expand the electronic surveillance powers of police and
    ratchet up penalties relating to certain computer crimes.
    Known as the Provide Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and
    Obstruct Terrorism (PATRIOT) Act, the bill was introduced into the
    U.S. House of Representatives by F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., R-Wis.,
    and John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., and is expected to be debated in
    committee Wednesday afternoon.
    "It's incredibly likely to make it through," said an aide to the House
    Committee on the Judiciary.
    An earlier version of the bill, known as the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA),
    was held up over civil rights concerns last week. The members of the
    House Judiciary Committee worked through the weekend and late Monday
    to draft the new PATRIOT Act, said a staffer.
    If enacted, the new bill would add to the powers of law enforcement
    and intelligence communities, allowing them to gather and share
    information, detain immigrants, pursue those who cooperate with
    suspected terrorists, and freeze the bank accounts and financial
    networks of terrorist organizations.
    The bill was modified to include a narrower definition of "terrorism"
    that could limit some powers granted in the previous draft highlighted
    by civil rights advocates. Those powers include near-blanket rights to
    wiretap any communications device used by a person in any way
    connected to a suspected terrorist; the power to detain indefinitely
    an immigrant connected to an act of terrorism; and the classification
    of any computer hacking crime as a terrorist offense.
    "McCarthy all over again"
    Despite that change, the newest bill still falls short of clearly
    defining what crimes should be considered terrorist acts, said Michael
    Erbschloe, vice president and analyst at technology market researcher
    Computer Economics.
    The bill lists more than 40 criminal offenses, including computer
    intrusion and damaging a computer, and defines those offenses as
    terrorism if they are "calculated to influence or affect the conduct
    of government by intimidation or coercion...or to retaliate against
    government conduct."
    Erbschloe, the author of "Information Warfare: How to Survive Cyber
    Attacks," said that left a lot of leeway.
    "It could be McCarthy all over again," he said, referring to the
    political witch-hunts carried out a half-century ago by the House
    Committee on Un-American Activities under Sen. Joseph McCarthy, whose
    hearings on the "Communist threat" led to the jailing and blacklisting
    of a number of Americans. "We need to more clearly define what a
    terrorist is."
    Suicide hijackers on Sept. 11 used commercial jets to ram the World
    Trade Center and the Pentagon, leaving some 6,000 people missing and
    assumed dead, and sparking the largest criminal investigation in U.S.
    Congress last week approved a $343 billion defense package, diverting
    some funds from missile defense to counter-terrorism. More than 500
    people already have been detained by the FBI in the terrorist dragnet.
    The manhunt has thrown a spotlight on law enforcement surveillance
    powers, including the potential expansion of eavesdropping technology
    on the Internet. Several Internet service providers said they were
    asked to install a wiretap device known as Carnivore after the
    attacks. Carnivore, since renamed DCS1000, has the ability to capture
    the contents of e-mail messages and other data.
    Hasty passage
    Attorney General John Ashcroft has taken a hard line on the need for
    new legislation to assist police in their investigations, calling for
    hasty passage of anti-terrorism legislation that continued this
    weekend. "Talk does not stop terrorism," Reuters quoted him as saying.
    In comments last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he asked
    for better "tools" to help the FBI chase terrorists, likening the
    agency's current situation to "sending our troops into the modern
    field of battle with antique weapons."
    "Technology has dramatically outpaced our statutes," he said. "Law
    enforcement tools created decades ago were crafted for rotary
    telephones--not e-mail, the Internet, mobile communications and voice
    Civil rights advocates, meanwhile, have cautioned against expanding
    surveillance powers unnecessarily, arguing that there is little
    evidence that tougher surveillance laws could have prevented last
    month's tragedy.
    A previous anti-terrorism bill was flawed, they said, because it would
    declare hackers and online vandals "terrorists" and broaden the FBI's
    ability to wiretap the Internet. The latest House version of the bill
    steps back from completely allowing intelligence and FBI officials to
    trade surveillance information on Americans.
    Because of the controversy over the anti-terrorism bill, the measures
    ran into a congressional wall last week, when key senators and
    representatives refused to sign off on certain provisions of the
    package. This past weekend, the members of the House and Senate
    Judiciary committees met behind closed doors for repeated sessions
    with the Bush administration and Department of Justice officials to
    hammer out a compromise.
    While the House Judiciary Committee will use the latest draft as a
    foundation for its discussions, the Senate is moving more deliberately
    on the legislation. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., postponed a Tuesday
    Judiciary Committee hearing on its version of the bill so that members
    could concentrate on rewriting problem sections.
    Meanwhile, the Bush administration has been increasing pressure on
    Congress to get the legislation passed.
    Last week, Vice President Dick Cheney reportedly told Republican
    senators that the president wanted legislation to sign by the end of
    the week.
    Reuters contributed to this report.
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