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Parolees can be kept offline

A branch of the Department of Justice approves new restrictions on parolees that allow judges to prohibit them from using the Internet.

A branch of the U.S. Department of Justice today approved new restrictions on parolees that allow judges to prohibit them from using the Internet.

Adding to restrictions parolees already face on their travel and association, the U.S. Parole Commission stated: "Responding to increased criminal use of the Internet has approved the discretionary use of special conditions of parole that would impose tight restrictions on the use of computers by high-risk parolees."

The Commission made the decision noting the "surge of 'how-to' information available on the Internet and other computer online services." The statement went on to say that the Net gives sophisticated offenders new avenues to commit crime or forge criminal associations.

The new restrictions would allow the parolee to get written permission to surf the Net or get an Internet account. The provision allows for unannounced searches of a parolee's computer system and could require a daily computer log of the user's activity. Judges could also forbid the possession of encryption programs.

Ann Beeson, a staff lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union said although judges have flexibility with the kinds of conditions they set for parolees, the new provision is another example of unnecessary fear of the Net.

"All of those materials, specifically about bomb-making, are available in public libraries," she said. "It's another example of how all the sensationalist stories about the Internet being a dangerous place have gotten into the minds of otherwise logical people."