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Computer Crimes and the USA PATRIOT Act

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Volume: 17 Issue: 2 Dated: Summer 2002 Pages: 61-63,69
Ellen S. Podgor
Date Published
4 pages
Although the USA PATRIOT Act does not directly focus on computer crimes, this paper explores procedural changes to statutes aimed at prosecuting such crimes.
This paper explains that the provisions of the PATRIOT Act concerning these crimes are broadly phrased, likely extending beyond cyberterrorism to include allegations of fraud, identity theft, and other activities that are common forms of computer crimes. Changes are both procedural and substantive. Procedural changes include provisions that expand when service providers can give information to law enforcement, adding felonies related to computer fraud to the list of predicates for receiving wiretap authority, and permitting intercepting, under certain circumstances, communications to and from a computer trespasser. The Act also expands the list of situations in which the Secret Service may participate in the investigation of computer crimes and authorizes the U.S. Attorney General to establish regional computer forensic laboratories to train Federal, State, and local law enforcement in investigating computer crimes. Substantively, the Act expands the scope of key money laundering statutes; includes computer fraud and abuse as part of the grounds for charges of terrorism; and modifies the computer fraud statute, including permitting extraterritorial jurisdiction. The author believes that with changing technology, even more expansive legislation will be enacted. Her concern is that provisions are so far-reaching, they may be applied well beyond the target of terrorism.