An amendment to the controversial Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) will allow U.S. courts to jail foreign nationals, even if the crimes they commit are carried out on foreign soil and against other foreigners.
The thrust of the amendment to CISA is to lower the barrier for prosecuting crimes committed overseas. The amendment will make it a crime for a wide variety of offenses, from just stealing a Netflix password or cloning the credit card of an American citizen, to hacking into unauthorized information from any American company, no matter where the crime was perpetrated.
One expert cites the case of a French national hacking a Spanish national’s MasterCard, being subject to 10 years in U.S. prison under the proposed law change.
American privacy advocates have attacked the proposed law changes. In a released statement, The Electronic Frontier Foundation says the computer fraud laws that would be increased by CISA were used to prosecute the late founder of Demand Progress Aaron Swartz for downloading articles from JSTOR, the digital library of academic journals.
Gabe Rottman, legislative counsel and policy advisor for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), says it is very clear what the amendment which is sponsored by Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democratic senator from Rhode Island is intended for.
“The White House folks have been pretty clear that that’s what they’re trying to do, ease prosecutions for trafficking when the assets are held abroad.” he says.
CISA’s stated official purpose is to build a reporting system for private industry which allows any company with digital records of consumer behavior to send “cyber threat indicators” to the Department of Homeland Security, which would then pass the information on to the director of national intelligence and the FBI.
The Senate will vote on the bill next week.