Overcriminalization and the Criminal Congress

How many crimes do you commit every day?  It is probably way more than you imagine.  From Overcriminalized:
“Overcriminalization” describes the trend in America – and particularly in Congress – to use the criminal law to “solve” every problem, punish every mistake (instead of making proper use of civil penalties), and coerce Americans into conforming their behavior to satisfy social engineering objectives. Criminal law is supposed to be used to redress only that conduct which society thinks deserving of the greatest punishment and moral sanction.

But as a result of rampant overcriminalization, trivial conduct is now often punished as a crime.  Many criminal laws make it possible for the government to convict a person even if he acted without criminal intent (i.e., mens rea). Sentences have skyrocketed, particularly at the federal level.
Sound far fetched?  Consider the case of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.  From Tech News Daily:
The CFAA is a 1986 law, section 1030 of the federal criminal code, which makes any unauthorized access into a protected network or computer a federal crime and permits harsh penalties for those convicted.

But 1986 was a long time ago. Today, any Web server can be defined as a protected computer, and almost anything can be defined as unauthorized access.  Use your roommate's Netflix account to watch movies on your iPad? You're violating the CFAA.  Trim the URLs of articles on the New York Times website so you can read them for free? You're breaking federal law.  Check your Facebook page at work, even if your employer forbids it? Better call your lawyer. . . . 
To Robert Graham, chief executive officer of Errata Security in Atlanta, the CFAA is "hopelessly out of date, and can be used to prosecute anybody for almost anything."
"The issue is 'authorization,'" Graham said. "Back in 1986, everyone had to be explicitly authorized to use a computer with an assigned username and password.

"But today, with the Web, we access computers with reckless abandon without knowing whether we are authorized or not," he added. "When you click on a URL, you are technically in violation of the law as it was designed."
Of course, these laws only apply to the people and are rarely if ever used to prosecute ruling elites.  The US Congress, for instance, is a hot bed of cyber criminality.  From the Guardian:
Employees of the US Congress were found to be downloading a host of television shows and movies illegally on congressional computers, according to a report by anti-piracy service ScanEye.

The report shared by US News and World Reports showed that since early October, congressional employees have downloaded movies and television shows including The Walking Dead, The Dark Knight Rises and 30 Rock.

The report demonstrates that even though Congress has found itself at the forefront of measures to stop piracy, including the much-maligned Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa), its staff do not always follow the legislators' lead. . . .

The blog TorrentFreak has found that IP addresses associated with the biggest players in the anti-piracy legislative campaign are used for illegal downloading. People at Hollywood studios, major record labels and the US department of homeland security have downloaded music, film and television on their employers' networks.

As TorrentFreak noted in a 2011 blogpost, Congress was illegally downloading television shows and self-help books around the same time some members were drafting Sopa.
It is time to put these criminals in prison and throw away the key.

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