September 25, 2001
The one-two punch strategy seems be a very well-developed
technique with Republicans. It's extremely effective, and
has a nasty way of demoralizing the opposition while scoring
huge victories for the GOP. Here's how it works:
First punch - sweeping proposal that attacks many things
the left holds dear Second punch - after passing in whole
or in part the first punch, they then propose another even
The effect of this is that everyone ends up too busy fighting
the second one and forgets about the first. Those who spent
time working towards getting the first punch pulled, are now
in a position of taking one-step forward and two-steps back
because of the second punch. Everyone is left in awe, saying
to themselves, "They barely pulled off the FIRST punch, how
could they have the gall to throw a SECOND punch?"
A perfect example of this is the tax cut. Months after the
tax cut was passed, after bitter partisan fights and tons
of rhetoric, instead of counting it as a victory and moving
on to other things, the GOP threw the second punch and now
propose cutting capital gain taxes! Everyone is left wondering
how they have the balls to propose a newer, even WORSE tax
cut, when they should be damn glad they even got the first
One-two punch, the Democrats are KO.
In the world of computing, internet privacy, code hackers,
and other computer gurus, the first punch was the Digital
Millenium Copyright Act, which passed Congress unanimously
leaving Clinton no choice but to sign it into law (although
he didn't show much opposition to it even before that, it's
impossible to know whether or not he would have signed it
if it had had a tougher time in Congress). The DMCA is a horrid
piece of legislation that essentially overhauls all our existing
copyright laws in the name of catering to huge special interests.
A few examples of the DMCA's absurdity:
1. It essentially outlaws the knowledge and possession of
tools for reverse engineering, 2
which is equivalent to saying crowbars should be illegal because
some criminals use them to break into stuff, not to mention
reverse engineering is an established scientific practice
and researchers at a major university have already been forced
to sacrifice legitimate research because of the DMCA.
2. It has created the first illegal prime number. 4
3. In the landmark court case challenging the DMCA (which
is currently in the appelate court), the district court ruled
that a website which LINKED to another website that contained
a tool for reverse engineering was liable for that website's
For years, computer-activists (affectionately called "hacktivists")
have been battling in court and in the public's eye to get
the DMCA repealed, like its earlier cousin the Computer Decency
Act which was quickly repealed after civil liberties groups
Now we're forced to forget the DMCA battle and fight the
second punch. The punch that's twice as hard. The punch that
makes even less sense. The punch that causes the most damage.
And it's contained in legislation that has the backing of
practically the entire country - The Anti-Terrorism Act.
"Hackers face life imprisonment under 'Anti-Terrorism'
Act" screams the headline. Here's a small excerpt:
"Hackers, virus-writers and web site defacers would face
life imprisonment without the possibility of parole under
legislation proposed by the Bush Administration that would
classify most computer crimes as acts of terrorism.
The Justice Department is urging Congress to quickly approve
its Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), a twenty-five page proposal
that would expand the government's legal powers to conduct
electronic surveillance, access business records, and detain
The proposal defines a list of "Federal terrorism offenses"
that are subject to special treatment under law. The offenses
include assassination of public officials, violence at international
airports, some bombings and homicides, and politically-motivated
manslaughter or torture.
Most of the terrorism offenses are violent crimes, or
crimes involving chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons.
But the list also includes the provisions of the Computer
Fraud and Abuse Act that make it illegal to crack a computer
for the purpose of obtaining anything of value, or to deliberately
cause damage. Likewise, launching a malicious program that
harms a system, like a virus, or making an extortionate threat
to damage a computer are included in the definition of terrorism."
First of all, I have problems understanding how computer
crimes can even be called acts of terrorism in the first place.
The damage is 99% of the time strictly financial. Additionally,
many cracks 7
of American corporate, private and government networks and
websites occur from foreign countries, countries that we're
allied with. If they refuse to extradite one of their citizens
for defacing Microsoft's website with a plug for Linux so
he can be sent to jail for life without parole, will we then
declare "war" on them for harboring "terrorists"?
It gets worse. This legislation would also retroactively
eliminate the statute of limitations on computer crimes, force
convicted crackers to give the government DNA samples for
a federal database, and harboring or even giving advice
to a hacker would be considered an act of terrorism.
So in conjunction with the DMCA's broad expansion of what
constitutes computer crime (although not yet a part of the
Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, so the DMCA violations cannot
technically be applied to the ATA, though it's only a matter
of time until the CFAA is ammended) the government has basically
given itself unrestrained freedom to do whatever it wants
with whomever it wants if at any point in time that person
did something the government didn't like with a computer.
Nine years ago, when I was twelve, I naively spat out the
words "I hacked [...]" in an email. With no statute of limitations,
and that being an act of terrorism, it's completely possible
for me to be arrested, tried, and sentenced to life without
parole. And this legislation could be passed within a week.
Anyone using encryption algorithms could be opening themselves
up to life without parole. Anyone who DoS's their next door
neighbor because their dog won't stop barking could be sentenced
to life without parole (not that I would endorse such a DoS
attack, but let's face it, it's hardly worthy of a life sentence).
The scores of websites and magazines dedicated to network
security and the hacker community could be forced to cease
and desist or face life without parole, since simply providing
information about computers is now being considered an act
of terrorism. To think I may not be able to read my regular
publications, which yield so much useful information, because
those publications could be considered tools for giving advice
And ultimately, that's all hackers want - information. They
want to know everything they can about how computers work.
Most don't commit crimes. Most hack for fun on their own personal
networks. Many have written some of the greatest pieces of
software out there, and made it available to the entire world
for free, because that's their nature.
And now they're all terrorists. Nay, now we're all
terrorists, because I do fall into the category of "hacker."
And I do not commit crimes. For example, I have programmed
many modifications to DU's message board software. If you
go to the website
of the company which created that software, you'll see that
they themselves refer to, and indeed approve of, people "hacking"
it. This shows how completely misinterpreted the term "hack"
has become, and furthermore, goes to show the reach of this
legislation when it inevitably is applied universally to the
One-two punch, another bunch of commie liberal un-American
bastards are KO.
And they said it could never happen here.
definition of how I use the term "hack" - hacking
is learning about computers, originally applied to programmers
who would "hack" a program to make it work differently.
It is not a crime. A hacker is not a criminal. Some criminals
7. definition of how I use the term "crack" - cracking
is criminal hacking. A cracker is someone who steals credit
card numbers, brings down websites, etc.