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[] US Senate debates cybercrime treaty,

Senate debates cybercrime treaty

By Declan McCullagh
Staff Writer, CNET

Story last modified June 18, 2004, 6:23 AM PDT

A controversial treaty that is the first to focus on computer crime is
inching toward ratification in the U.S. Senate.

Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., said at a hearing Thursday that the Council
Europe's cybercrime treaty should be ratified quickly because it "will
help the United States continue to play a leadership role in
law enforcement and will advance the security of Americans at home and
abroad." Lugar is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations

The treaty would require participating nations to update their laws to
reflect computer crimes such as unauthorized intrusions into networks,
release of worms and viruses, and copyright infringement. The measure,
which has been ratified by Albania, Croatia, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania
and Romania, also includes arrangements for mutual assistance and
extradition among participating nations.

The Bush administration supports the proposal. If ratified by the
the treaty would "enhance the United States' ability to receive, as well
as render, international cooperation in preventing, investigating and
prosecuting computer-related crime," Samuel Witten, a legal adviser at
U.S. State Department, said when he testified Thursday. "Such
international cooperation is vitally important to our efforts to defend
against cyberattacks and generally improve global cybersecurity."

An addition to the treaty would require nations to imprison anyone
of "insulting publicly, through a computer system" certain groups of
people based on characteristics such as race or ethnic origin, a
requirement that could make it a crime to e-mail jokes about Polish
or question whether the Holocaust occurred.

The Department of Justice has said that it would be unconstitutional for
the United States to sign that addition because of the First Amendment's
guarantee of freedom of expression. Because of that objection, the
is not considering the addition, but other nations ratifying the treaty
are expected to adopt both documents.

Still, some civil liberties groups have criticized the portion of the
treaty that is moving through the Senate.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center on Thursday sent a letter to
Foreign Relations Committee saying it should not be ratified because it
would "would create invasive investigative techniques while failing to
provide meaningful privacy and civil liberties safeguards."

    * Related News Bush budget sweeps in tech, cybercrime  February 2,

    * Bush pushes for cybercrime treaty  November 18, 2003

    * Will Canada's ISPs become spies?  August 27, 2002

    * Get this story's "Big Picture"

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