Leahy Files Cybercrime Amendment To Defense Authorization Bill

WASHINGTON (Thursday, Nov. 17, 2011) – U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) today filed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to bolster penalties for cybercrime and other violations to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.  The amendment reflects many of the proposals included in Leahy’s Personal Data Privacy and Security Act, which was approved by the Judiciary Committee in September.

“Cybercrime is a growing threat to consumers and businesses, and it is one we can no longer ignore,” said Leahy.  “This evolving threat compromises the nation’s defense and domestic security, and harms our economy.  Further, it can be devastating to hardworking Americans who conduct so much of their personal business online, from managing their household expenses to online commerce.  I hope the Senate will adopt this commonsense amendment to address a growing gap in our nation’s security.”

Leahy’s amendment addresses concerns raised during a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee earlier this week, and clarifies that the types of criminal prosecutions that may be brought under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act should be limited to truly serious misconduct and should not include relatively innocuous conduct, such as violating a terms of use agreement, or lying in an online profile.

Also included in Leahy’s cybercrime amendment are several provisions proposed earlier this year by the Obama administration, including an update to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act to streamline the criminal penalties for computer fraud offenses.  The amendment also creates a new criminal offense that makes it a felony to damage a computer that manages or controls national defense, national security, transportation, public health and safety or other critical infrastructure systems or information.

The Senate began consideration today on the National Defense Authorization Act.

The Judiciary Committee approved Leahy’s Personal Data Privacy and Security Act in September.  During the Committee’s debate, it adopted a handful of amendments, including an amendment proposed by the Committee’s ranking Republican, Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), to impose a mandatory minimum sentence for damage to critical infrastructure computers.  While Leahy opposed the mandatory minimum sentence amendment during the Committee’s debate, he included the provision in the amendment to the NDAA, due to the bipartisan support it received in the Committee.

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The text of the amendment is available online.

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