25 Years for a Minor Hack of a Website?

Feds overreach in Reuters case, as they did with Aaron Swartz

By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 15, 2013 9:52 AM CDT

(Newser) – Federal prosecutors threatening Matthew Keys with 25 years in prison for helping hackers write some goofy vandalism on one LA Times story is so over the top that it's clear feds are just using "garbage charges" as a "bludgeon" to get a plea bargain, writes Justin Peters at Slate. "The DOJ doesn’t want to lock Keys up for 25 years," writes Peters, "but they’ll be more than happy to pretend they do in order to get the outcome they really want"—for Keys to turn over information on Anonymous and probably spend a few months in jail.

Peters see a parallel between this prosecution and the one involving Aaron Swartz. Swartz was facing 35 years in prison for offenses that should have been a slap on the wrist when he killed himself. As with Swartz, prosecutors are using the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to pile up an unreasonably high sentence. But the CFAA was passed in 1984, back when hacking meant government computers and the financial industry; today, it is hopelessly out of date for a world in which everything is wired. "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," writes Peters. "Apparently, they didn’t take away any lessons from the Aaron Swartz case." Click to read the full column.

Reuters journalist Matthew Keys faces up to 25 years in jail for helping hacker group Anonymous.
Reuters journalist Matthew Keys faces up to 25 years in jail for helping hacker group Anonymous.   (MrCDITO)
This Dec. 8, 2012 photo provided by ThoughtWorks shows Aaron Swartz, in New York. Swartz, a co-founder of Reddit, hanged himself Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, in New York City.
This Dec. 8, 2012 photo provided by ThoughtWorks shows Aaron Swartz, in New York. Swartz, a co-founder of Reddit, hanged himself Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, in New York City.   (AP Photo/ThoughtWorks, Pernille Ironside)
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