August 4, 2006 11:25 AM PDT

Senate ratifies controversial cybercrime treaty

The first and only international treaty designed exclusively to combat computer crime won approval late Thursday from the U.S. Senate.

The Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime "will enhance our ability to cooperate with foreign governments in fighting terrorism, computer hacking, money laundering and child pornography, among other crimes," Sen. Richard Lugar, the Indiana Republican who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement.

The treaty is intended to harmonize computer crime laws, especially those in smaller or less developed nations that may not have updated their legal framework to reflect the complexities of the Internet. It requires participating countries to target a broad swath of activities, including unauthorized intrusions into networks, fraud, the release of worms and viruses, child pornography and copyright infringement.

"This treaty provides important tools in the battles against terrorism, attacks on computer networks and the sexual exploitation of children over the Internet, by strengthening U.S. cooperation with foreign countries in obtaining electronic evidence," U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said in a statement Friday.

Because U.S. law already includes much of what the treaty requires, the Senate's consent is in part symbolic.

"Dual criminality" conflict
But one portion, which provoked the most controversy, deals with international cooperation. It says Internet providers must cooperate with electronic searches and seizures without reimbursement; the FBI must conduct electronic surveillance "in real time" on behalf of another government; that U.S. businesses can be slapped with "expedited preservation" orders preventing them from routinely deleting logs or other data.

What's controversial about those requirements is that they don't require "dual criminality"--in other words, Russian security services investigating democracy activists could ask for the FBI's help in uncovering the contents of their Yahoo Mail or Hotmail accounts, or even conducting live wiretaps.

"Our primary concern is that there's no dual criminality within the mutual assistance provisions," said Danny O'Brien, activism coordinator with the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco. "The U.S. is now obliged to investigate and monitor French Internet crimes, say, and France is obliged to obey America's requests to spy on its citizens, for instance--even if those citizens are under no suspicion for crimes on the statute books of their own country."

The Council of Europe consists of 45 member states, including all of the European Union, and five nonvoting members, of which the United States is one. Negotiations on the treaty began in 1997, and so far, 15 European nations, including Albania, Denmark, France, Norway and Ukraine, have fully ratified the final document.

The Bush administration began pressuring Congress to do the same in 2003. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the treaty last summer.

Longtime technology industry advocates of the treaty hailed the Senate's action, which occurred on its final day in session before a monthlong summer recess. The Business Software Alliance, a lobbying group whose members include Microsoft, Apple Computer, Cisco Systems, IBM and Intel said the treaty "will serve as an important tool in the global fight against cybercriminals and encourage greater cooperation among nations."

The software industry, which has been lobbying for years for action on the treaty, has found it contains much to cheer about, including a requirement that nations enact criminal penalties for copyright infringers.

The ratification marks "an important milestone in the fight against international cybercrime," said Paul Kurtz, executive director of the Cyber Security Industry Alliance, which counts Juniper Networks, McAfee, RSA Security and Symantec among its member companies.

A First Amendment issue
The Senate did not consider an optional separate section dealing with Internet-based hate speech that would have required participating nations to imprison anyone guilty of "insulting publicly, through a computer system" certain groups of people based on characteristics such as race or ethnic origin.

The U.S. Department of Justice had said that such a provision--which would make it a crime to, say, e-mail racist jokes or question conventional wisdom about the Holocaust--was inconsistent with the First Amendment's free-expression guarantees.

"The convention is in full accord with all U.S. constitutional protections, such as free speech and other civil liberties, and will require no change to U.S. laws," Attorney General Gonzales said Friday.

Civil liberties groups have begged to differ, mounting resistance against the international document ever since its inception.

In a letter to senators last summer (click here for PDF), the Electronic Privacy Information Center attacked the treaty for offering only "vague and weak" privacy protections. One section, for example, would force participating nations to have laws forcing individuals to disclose their decryption keys so that law enforcement could seize data for investigations, EPIC wrote.

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9 comments

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As if...
It wasn't bad enough to have to worry about our own government invading our privacy; now we have to worry about China and other countries.

I swear, all politians went completely brain-dead overnight.
Posted by umbrae (1073 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Oh, this isnt really about "other countries"...
This is actually about the U.S. Government USING other countries as an END-AROUND to the American legal-system ...where, these days, the FEDS apparently do NOT think they would have a chance, in Hell, of permanently getting this kind of power over the American-People, through ANY LEGITIMATE-LEGISLATION or COURT-ACTIONS.

And, as such, this is TOTALLY DISINGENUOUS...

I especially love the BS rhetoric, "... to target a broad swath of activities, including unauthorized intrusions into networks, fraud, the release of worms and viruses, child pornography and..." (>>>ACTUALLY, PROBABLY, MOST IMPORTANTLY<<<) "...copyright infringement"

...talk about priorities.

But, at its core, this is REALLY about SURVEILLANCE of people without "Due Process". This is about forcing Americans to be accountable to the RESTRICTIVE, and often Un-Constitutional Laws of other countries. So, this is about side-stepping the U.S. Constitution when OUR, now, apparently wholly-corrupt Government finds the document, more and more, INCONVENIENT, ...EVERYDAY.

Frankly, this HAS become a very TIRED-PLOY. First the Federal-Government PUSHES, and then SIGNS an "International Treaty" (which clearly VIOLATES "...the Will of the People", and/or theyre RIGHTS). And, then hastily creates new Federal-Laws to ENACT said "treaty", claiming that the "new Laws" HAD to be created to meet "...our International obligations", ...thereby completely sidestepping any impediments to the IMPOSITION of the wishes of a, few, POWERFUL-INTERESTS.
Posted by Had_to_be_said (384 comments )
Link Flag
Found a related link on Dotso.com
I found a related link to this story on Dotso.com about a week ago, but I can't locate it now. Was on the ZD network I think ...
Posted by JoeCrow (83 comments )
Reply Link Flag
effects of this treaty.....
According to the dissucssion I have made in other places this means a country has no power if another country decides to persecute a site or person located in target country if their laws are violated.

This can also happen weither the persecuting
country's laws violate target country's laws or constitution or not especially on levels of persecution and tolerance. This can be a tricky situation when the two countries in question have conflicting terms and definitions of such crimes. Some to the point of them cancelling each other out

This is fine for the things that everyone hates (such as hacking, theft and some levels of copyright infringment) but items of free speech and hate material or levels of objectionable material (such as adult sites)


What happens when one party says that something is illegal and another says its not. is this going to make everything that makes for such good discussion on the net objectionable to someone?
because apparently every other nation has to cooperate with another because of internatonal law?

Does it reduce all content on the net to zero before its illegal (lowest common multiple?) because anything that would incite any discussion would be illegal somewhere even if its not in your country. What if that meant persecution in said country would violate target country's constitution (such as countries that have abolished the death penalty an turning persons over to places with such punishment and/or who have known human rights issues in prisons and such things)

on top of that you wouldnt have any recourse against said country and would face such persecution as if you were in that country (even though you posted/used material outside of that country and any servers therein. Even though you broke no laws of your country.

this my law is your law philosophy is going to prove very very interesting because it makes all participating countries laws invalid. is this an item of bigger things to come?
Posted by neochu (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
very nicely said
freedom is the one thing we,(America)ave fought all our war's for,with this law in place we have opened our contry to any who wish to come in & take over our right's.
This law will not stop the things it's suppose to. The one's who wish to do what this law is suppose to stop will go deeper,& open the door for other country's.

The only good thing,(that may happen) is if enough wire's are tapped,& enough email's are read the goverment may see how p/o'ed the people are!
Posted by Earl (60 comments )
Link Flag
who is this meant to stop?
thepiratebay.org and allofmp3.com that's who. child porn and hacking? come on. this is the **AA, bought and paid for.

you can thank your coin-operated legislators (and the lobbysits whose coins operate them) for this one.
Posted by chris__anderson (23 comments )
Link Flag
fine for the things that everyone hates
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.analogstereo.com/honda_insight_owners_manual.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.analogstereo.com/honda_insight_owners_manual.htm</a>
Posted by Ipod Apple (152 comments )
Link Flag
Freedom in our country
This is what we have fought all our War's over,not to ruled by another country's laws.

I myself don't give a d**m abought the law's of another country's law's, or what they think I should,or shouldn't do or say.

The goverment has been trying to rewrite the contistution for years, &#38; haven't been able to do so, but with these new law's are bending it enought to suit there needs.
Posted by Earl (60 comments )
Reply Link Flag
three words
NEW WORLD ORDER

george and george bush suck rat weenie
Posted by R Me (196 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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