Newsgroups can be terrorists too

Let's hear it for catch-all legislation

The government has pulled newsgroups and ISPs as well as hackers into the Terrorism Act, passed yesterday, thanks to what one lawyer has called "an unfortunate, over-wide draft".

Under section 12, titled "Support", the Act makes it an offence for someone to arrange, manage or assist in arranging a meeting (private or public) in which one of the "terrorist organisations" meets. Since the wording of the Act easily includes all types of hackers plus other consumer groups that plan violent protest, this measure clearly puts newsgroups and ISPs into the fray.

Mike Pullen, of corporate law firm DLA, said it was debatable whether the government had intended to widen the scope of the Act so far:

"I can't believe that any government in its right mind would bring in legislation like this to deal with young hackers," he said. "I have no problem though with the definition being extended for, say, someone hacking into an air traffic control system and crashing two planes - that's just the same as someone planting a bomb on the plane. But this is an unfortunate, over-wide draft dealing in very broad terms."

Theory and Practice

As with all law, it's the cases that decide how it works. "There is a danger that a young hacker could be caught in this legislation," Pullen continued. "But then you still have to run the case through a jury, and in this case it would be hard to justify... it's not law just because it's written down, it's how it is applied that matters." ®

Related Link

Terrorism Act 2000
Terrorism Act protest site

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