Recently, Julian Assange was arrested for conspiring to commit "computer intrusion". My understanding is that this was unsuccessful – it was essentially that he told someone to try a password that wasn't right. It's the equivalent to the joke about someone trying 0000 because they want to unlock someone's phone. It's certainly rude, but just suggesting 0000 doesn't sound like a conspiracy to commit a felony.
Contrast DJTJ, who we recently learned was not indicted despite a literal signed confession to actually accessing a system he wasn't authorized to. He got emailed a password, checked that it worked, and sent out emails about it. That certainly sounds more like what the CFAA was trying to stop.
The crazy thing is, without signs of actual damage, meaningful disclosure, data tampering, etc., I'm not really convinced that should be a felony either. But if the CFAA was just another law I thought the US could do without, I probably wouldn't write this.
Instead, I want to talk about how it doesn't seem like our system is very good at distinguishing between good and bad behavior. The law certainly doesn't do a good job – the EFF has some extremely reasonable criticisms. But prosecutorial judgment also seems to be... sort of using an overbroad law to punish political enemies. Assange seems like a complete creep, Hell's Desginated Roomie, and maybe he's even a Russian cut-out (but I'm more inclined to suspect he was merely desperate for leaks to increase his stature, and given his tendency to publish everything he was given, a perfect vehicle for Russian intelligence). But targeting people because they Did Politics Wrong is pretty whack, particularly when they're reporters, and particularly when the crime you arrest them for seems sort of like an excuse to just arrest them.
I don't want to see DJTJ serve time for confirming interesting information in his inbox. But what I really, really want is for that to be outside the scope of decisions prosecutors can make. I don't want anyone's life to be ruined over stuff like that.
Fixing the CFAA seems, honestly, impossible. And the current extreme punishments are directed at pretty harmless vandals, not just kingpins you want to get by any means necessary. Perhaps this will get taken up in a round of criminal justice reforms, but I suspect not. Anything in the white collar crime region will probably have enhanced sentences because people are mad at Wall St.
This isn't an issue that many people care enough to change their votes based on it alone, so I can only hope more representatives are just reasonable people.
I might have to wait a while for that.