On Wednesday, President Obama issued an executive order which gives the government a dangerous new way to override our constitutional right to due process. Unfortunately, it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke.
The order targets cyber criminals who operate overseas but have assets or money within U.S. jurisdiction, allowing the government to freeze suspected hackers’ resources in an effort to combat cyber attacks.
While Obama argued that these “sanctions are meant to protect our national security, personal privacy and civil liberties” in a blog post accompanying the order, civil libertarians should be concerned for two big reasons.
First, the order anticipates instant action, with no apparent reference to due process to determine little details like—oh, I don’t know—whether someone is actually guilty of the crime he’s been accused of committing.
Here’s the relevant section from the order:
For those persons whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order who might have a constitutional presence in the United States, I find that because of the ability to transfer funds or other assets instantaneously, prior notice to such persons of measures to be taken pursuant to this order would render those measures ineffectual. I therefore determine that for these measures to be effective in addressing the national emergency declared in this order, there need be no prior notice of a listing or determination made pursuant to section 1 of this order. (Emphasis added.)
The second reason for concern is the way the order could allow the government to seize money from people who aren’t themselves accused of any cyber-crimes but have had dealings with those who are:
The prohibitions in section 1 of this order include but are not limited to:
(a) the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order; and
(b) the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person.
Did you catch that? If you sell or give anything to someone suspected of criminal hacking activity, or if they sell or give anything to you, the government can go after your stuff without due process, too.
Looks like civil asset forfeiture has a new rival for the title of “biggest threat to private property most people have never heard of.”