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Obama reportedly criminalises “support” for “cyber-enabled activities”

US President Barack Obama has issued an executive order authorising the Treasury Secretary to enact sanctions against those whom it deems to have “have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for” cyber-related crimes.

Reuters reports that even US lawmakers consider the order “surprisingly broad”, and investigative journalists are concerned about its wide-ranging scope.

The order criminalizes anyone who is “responsible for or complicit in, or [who has] engaged in, the receipt or use for commercial or competitive advantage or private financial gain, or by a commercial entity, outside the United States of trade secrets misappropriated through cyber-enabled means.”

Former DOJ lawyer Mark Rasch told Reuters, “Even denial-of-service attacks that knock websites offline with meaningless traffic, which can be orchestrated over the Internet for a few hundred dollars, could officially qualify for sanctions.” The PayPal 14 were imprisoned and fined heavily for denial-of-service attacks on PayPal in response to its freezing of WikiLeaks’ bank account, and President Obama has called Edward Snowden a “hacker”, so reporters and supporters wonder if this new order will affect donations to organizations like WikiLeaks and the Courage Foundation.

Investigative journalist Marcy Wheeler said that this order “could be used to target journalism abroad. Does WikiLeaks’ publication of secret Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations qualify? Does Guardian’s publication of contractors’ involvement in NSA hacking?”

Wheeler’s post notes many elements of the order that appear “ripe for abuse.” Questioning just how broadly the ‘material support’ interpretation goes, she said, “Does that include encryption providers? Does it include other privacy protections?”

In response to the possibility that donations to Edward Snowden’s defence fund could be criminalised, Reddit users criticized the order and sparked a surge in bitcoin donations to Edward Snowden’s defence fund. Courage has received over 200 transactions already this month, including a single donation of 8.49 bitcoin (over 2000 dollars).

Reddit AMA

Members of the Courage team, including trustee Julian Assange, acting director Sarah Harrison, and advisory board members Renata Avila, who is an internet rights lawyer, and Andy Muller-Maguhn, on the board of the Wau Holland Foundation, which collects donations for Snowden and Hammond on Courage’s behalf, will be participating in a Reddit AMA on Monday, 7pm EST / 11pm GMT. They’ll discuss Courage, ready to answer anything, including questions on the increase in BTC since the Executive Order.