Limitations in federal law prompt DOJ to push for clarification, expansion, P.2

On Behalf of | Sep 22, 2015 | Criminal Defense

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act has been the focus of recent posts on this blog. Those who have been following this series know that we’ve been focusing on the limitations in application of the federal law to certain situations, and that the Department of Justice is currently seeking to expand the law to allow for easier prosecution in these cases.

In particular, the Department of Justice is looking for an expansion of the law as applied to individuals who access a computer or network with authority to do so, but who abuse that authority by engaging in unauthorized activity. News sources are not clear how broadly the DOJ proposal extends, but concerns have been expressed about such a proposal. 

For one thing, expanding the scope of application of the law to authorized users of a computer or network could potentially open the floodgates of prosecution to include the many people who use a work computer to check their favorite gossip sites, shop for shoes, plan vacations, or check up on last night’s game. What lines would be drawn in terms of the application of the law? The DOJ has said that any proposal would narrow the type of activity targeted by the law, but just how narrow is the key question. Critics of the proposal also say that there are already enough laws on the books to target illegal online behavior.

It remains to be seen exactly what will come out of the proposal. That some change will take place is not unlikely, though. We’ll keep readers updated as things progress on this issue.

Sources:, “Justice Department looks to sharpen computer crime law,” Eric Tucker, September 2015.

Electronic Frontier Foundation, “United States v. Gilberto Valle, Accessed Sept. 16, 2015.

New York Times, “Gilberto Valle, Ex-New York Police Officer, Talks About His Cannibalism Fantasies in Film,” Benjamin Weiser, April 16, 2015. 

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