- Associated Press - Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Boston Globe, Sept. 5, 2014

When hackers broke into online storage accounts and posted nude photos online of over half a dozen women celebrities - including Jennifer Lawrence - they didn’t just commit a gross invasion of privacy; they also broke federal anti-hacking laws. The perpetrators, if caught, should be prosecuted. But the case is also an occasion to revisit laws that are broad enough to cover a plethora of computer-related infractions but don’t specifically address the violation of privacy that Lawrence and other celebrities suffered. Just as some states treat peeping Toms differently from other trespassers, voyeuristic hacking targeting individuals may warrant a different punishment than other computer crimes.

Currently, many hackers who steal an individual’s personal files are subject to the same federal laws - most notably, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act - that prohibit attacks on government agencies and other institutions. The breadth of these laws gives vast discretion, and little guidance, to federal prosecutors and judges. Christopher Chaney, who distributed nude photos of Scarlett Johansson and others, was sentenced to 10 years in jail. That was four more years than prosecutors sought, but less than the 60 years he might have faced. (Internet activist Aaron Swartz was accused of a vastly different offense - stealing academic papers from the JSTOR database - but was charged under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act as well.)

The punishment for stealing nude selfies should reflect the sense of violation that victims feel. It should also be fair and consistent. Congress needs to refine the computer fraud act and better tailor the possible punishments to the circumstances of specific crimes.

The Day of New London (Conn.), Sept, 4, 2014

Two former U.S. senators have been caught working for a Russian national bank in an effort to undermine sanctions the Obama administration imposed in response to Russian military intervention in neighboring Ukraine.

There was a time when such activity would be labeled treasonous. Now it’s called lobbying.

Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., and former Sen. John Breaux, D-La., are listed in federal filings as the primary lobbyists for Gazprombank, the bank controlled by Russia’s state-owned energy company Gazprom. The two ex-senators work for the lobbying firm Squire Patton Boggs.

The pair will be lobbying on “banking laws and regulations, including applicable sanctions.” In other words, they will be working for the Russian bank to try to weaken sanctions. The U.S. Treasury Department recently added Gazprombank to the list of Russian financial firms barred from financing debt with U.S. institutions.

Leading the arguments will likely be that sanctions are bad for business, particularly business with Europe, which will be hurt economically if Russia cuts gas imports in response to the sanctions. Gazprom is Russia’s largest gas producer, supplying about a third of Europe’s natural gas. What a tidy circle.

The lobbying deal should prove lucrative for the former senators. Gazprom paid another lobbying firm $3.7 million in the second half of 2013 alone. Everybody, it seems, wins, accept the Ukrainian people, their independence ground under the Russian boot.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, more than 300 former members of Congress have become lobbyists, Democrats and Republicans alike. Congress may remain gridlocked over ideology, but lobbying hums along.

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