[Senate Report 110-61]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office]



                                                       Calendar No. 134
110th Congress                                                   Report
                                 SENATE
 1st Session                                                     110-61

======================================================================



 
                TERRORIST HOAX IMPROVEMENTS ACT OF 2007

                                _______
                                

                  May 4, 2007.--Ordered to be printed

                                _______
                                

 Mr. Leahy, Chairman of the Committee on the Judiciary, submitted the 
                               following

                              R E P O R T

                         [To accompany S. 735]

      [Including cost estimate of the Congressional Budget Office]

    The Committee on the Judiciary, to which was referred the 
bill (S. 735), to amend title 18, United States Code, to 
improve the terrorism hoax statute, reports favorably thereon 
with an amendment and recommends that the bill (as amended) do 
pass.

                                CONTENTS

                                                                   Page
  I. Purpose of the Terrorist Hoax Improvements Act of 2007...........1
 II. History of the Bill and Committee Consideration..................2
III. Section by Section Summary of the Bill...........................3
 IV. Cost Estimate....................................................3
  V. Regulatory Impact Evaluation.....................................4
 VI. Changes in Existing Law..........................................4
VII. Conclusion.......................................................7

       I. Purpose of the Terrorist Hoax Improvements Act of 2007

    The purpose of this legislation is to extend the 
prohibition against conveying false information or hoaxes 
relating to any federal crime of terrorism and increase maximum 
prison terms for hoaxes involving a member of the Armed Forces 
during war. The bill also allows a civil remedy for federal, 
state and local governments that incur damages resulting from 
hoaxes perpetrated by an individual who engages in conduct that 
has the effect of conveying false or misleading information, 
resulting in an emergency response, but then knowingly fails to 
provide accurate information to investigating authorities about 
the actual nature of the incident. Finally, the bill contains a 
technical provision to extend the prohibition against mailing 
threatening communications to include corporations or 
governmental entities (as well as individuals).

          II. History of the Bill and Committee Consideration

    The Terrorist Hoax Improvements Act of 2007, S. 735, is a 
bipartisan measure introduced on April 12, 2007, by Senator 
Kennedy, Senator Coleman and Senator Kyl. Chairman Leahy, 
Senator Schumer, Senator Grassley and Senator Cornyn also 
joined the bill as cosponsors.
    The Act builds on the first federal terrorist-hoax statute, 
which was enacted as part of the Intelligence Reform and 
Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, Public Law 108-458. The 
purpose of the anti-hoax provision was to establish definitions 
and serious penalties to deal with the serious problem of hoax 
crimes. Events since then have proven the need for additional 
authority. A significant number of prosecutions have taken 
place of individuals who disrupt communities with terrorist 
hoaxes; nevertheless, a disturbing pattern has developed 
involving circumstances not covered by the original law. Such 
hoaxes have seriously disrupted many lives and needlessly 
diverted law enforcement and emergency services resources.
    On September 13, 2004, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on 
Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security held a hearing 
where witnesses testified about the need for strong federal 
laws to punish hoaxes about terrorist threats. At the hearing, 
the Justice Department commented on the harm caused by false 
information and terrorist hoaxes, noting in its testimony:

          Since September 11, hoaxes have seriously disrupted 
        people's lives and needlessly diverted law-enforcement 
        and emergency-services resources. In the wake of the 
        anthrax attacks in the fall of 2001, for example, a 
        number of individuals mailed unidentified white powder, 
        intending for the recipient to believe it was anthrax. 
        Many people were inconvenienced, and emergency 
        responders were forced to waste a great deal of time 
        and effort. Similarly, in a time when those in uniform 
        are making tremendous sacrifices for the country, 
        several people have received hoax phone calls reporting 
        the death of a loved one serving in Iraq or 
        Afghanistan.

    The current federal statute punishes hoaxes involving an 
unduly restricted list of terrorist offenses. For example, the 
list does not include hoaxes related to the taking of hostages 
in order to coerce the Federal Government (18 U.S.C. 1203), 
hoaxes related to blowing up an energy facility (18 U.S.C. 
1366(a)), hoaxes related to attacks on military bases aimed at 
undermining national defense (18 U.S.C. 2156), or hoaxes 
related to attacks on railways and mass transportation 
facilities, such as the recent London bombings (18 U.S.C. 1992-
93). The Terrorist Hoax Improvements Act of 2007 fills the gaps 
in current law by expanding the hoax statute to punish hoaxes 
involving any offense included on the official list of federal 
terrorist offenses, contained in 18 U.S.C. 2332b(g)(5)(B).
    As Senator Kennedy stated in introducing the bill, ``It's 
unconscionable in this post-9/11 world for anyone to be 
perpetrating hoaxes that cause panic and drain already limited 
public safety resources. Hopefully, this bill will fulfill its 
purpose of preventing the false alarms that can be so 
disruptive of our families and our communities in these 
difficult and dangerous times.''
    In addition, the bill increases the maximum penalties for 
hoaxes about the death or injury of a U.S. soldier during 
wartime from 5 years under current law to 10 years under S. 
735, and from 20 years to 25 years where bodily injury results. 
The bill also expands existing civil liability provisions to 
allow first responders and others to seek reimbursement from a 
party who engages in conduct that results in an emergency 
response, becomes aware that first responders believe that a 
terrorist offense is taking place, but fails to inform 
authorities that no such event has occurred. Finally, the bill 
clarifies that threatening communications are punishable under 
federal law even if they are directed at an organization rather 
than a natural person.
    The Terrorist Hoax Improvements Act of 2007 was first 
listed on the Judiciary Committee's agenda on Thursday, April 
12, 2007, and the Committee adopted an amendment in the nature 
of a substitute to the bill without objection. There were no 
further amendments offered to the bill. By unanimous consent, 
the Committee ordered S. 735 to be reported favorably on April 
25, 2007.

              III. Section-by-Section Summary of the Bill


Section 1

    This section states that the short title of the bill is the 
``Terrorist Hoax Improvements Act of 2007.''

Section 2

    This section expands 18 U.S.C. 1038, the terrorism hoax 
statute, so that it punishes hoaxes about any terrorist offense 
listed in 2332b(g)(5)(B) of Title 18. In addition, the bill 
increases the maximum penalties for hoaxes about the death or 
injury of a U.S. soldier during wartime. The bill also expands 
existing civil liability provisions to allow first responders 
and other emergency personnel to seek reimbursement from a 
party who perpetrates a hoax and becomes aware that first 
responders believe that a terrorist offense is taking place, 
but fails to inform authorities that no such event has 
occurred. Finally, the bill clarifies that threatening 
communications are punishable under federal law even if they 
are directed at an organization rather than a natural person.

             IV. Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate


S.735--Terrorist Hoax Improvements Act of 2007

    CBO estimates that implementing S. 735 would have no 
significant cost to the federal government. Enacting the bill 
could affect direct spending and revenues, but CBO estimates 
that any such effects would not be significant. S. 735 contains 
no intergovernmental or private-sector mandates as defined in 
the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act and would impose no costs on 
state, local, or tribal governments.
    S. 735 would broaden the coverage of current laws against 
the perpetration of hoaxes and would increase the penalties for 
certain offenses involving false statements. Thus, the 
government would be able to pursue cases that it otherwise 
would not be able to prosecute. We expect that S. 735 would 
apply to a relatively small number of offenders, however, so 
any increase in costs for law enforcement, court proceedings, 
or prison operations would not be significant. Any such costs 
would be subject to the availability of appropriated funds.
    Because those prosecuted and convicted under S. 735 could 
be subject to criminal fines, the federal government might 
collect additional fines if the legislation is enacted. 
Criminal fines are recorded as revenues, then deposited in the 
Crime Victims Fund, and later spent. CBO expects that any 
additional revenues and direct spending would not be 
significant because of the small number of cases affected.
    The CBO staff contact for this estimate is Mark Grabowicz. 
This estimate was approved by Peter H. Fontaine, Deputy 
Assistant Director for Budget Analysis.

                    V. Regulatory Impact Evaluation

    In compliance with rule XXVI of the Standing Rules of the 
Senate, the Committee finds that no significant regulatory 
impact will result from the enactment of S. 735.

                      VI. Changes in Existing Law

    In compliance with paragraph 12 of rule XXVI of the 
Standing Rules of the Senate, changes in existing law made by 
S. 735, as reported, are shown as follows (existing law 
proposed to be omitted is enclosed in black brackets, new 
matter is printed in italic, and existing law in which no 
change is proposed is shown in roman):

TITLE 18--CRIMES AND CRIMINAL PROCEDURE

           *       *       *       *       *       *       *


         PART I--CRIMES, CHAPTER 47--FRAUD AND FALSE STATEMENTS


SEC. 1038. FALSE INFORMATION AND HOAXES

    (a) Criminal Violation.--
          (1) In general.--Whoever engages in any conduct with 
        intent to convey false or misleading information under 
        circumstances where such information may reasonably be 
        believed and where such information indicates that an 
        activity has taken, is taking, or will take place that 
        would constitute a violation of chapter 2, 10, 11B, 39, 
        40, 44, 111, or 113B of this title, section 236 of the 
        Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (42 U.S.C. 2284), or section 
        46502, the second sentence of section 46504, section 
        46505(b)(3) or (c), section 46506 if homicide or 
        attempted homicide is involved, or section 60123(b) of 
        title 49, or any other offense listed under section 
        2332b(g)(5)(B) of this title, shall--
                  (A) be fined under this title or imprisoned 
                not more than 5 years, or both;
                  (B) if serious bodily injury results, be 
                fined under this title or imprisoned not more 
                than 20 years, or both; and
                  (C) if death results, be fined under this 
                title or imprisoned for any number of years up 
                to life, or both.
          (2) Armed forces.--Any person who makes a false 
        statement, with intent to convey false or misleading 
        information, about the death, injury, capture, or 
        disappearance of a member of the Armed Forces of the 
        United States during a war or armed conflict in which 
        the United States is engaged--
                  (A) shall be fined under this title, 
                imprisoned not more than [5 years] 10 years, or 
                both;
                  (B) if serious bodily injury results, shall 
                be fined under this title, imprisoned not more 
                than [20 years] 25 years, or both; and
                  (C) if death results, shall be fined under 
                this title, imprisoned for any number of years 
                or for life, or both.
    (b) Civil Action.--Whoever engages in any conduct with 
intent to convey false or misleading information under 
circumstances where such information may reasonably be believed 
and where such information indicates that an activity has 
taken, is taking, or will take place that would constitute an 
offense listed under subsection a(1) is liable in a civil 
action to any party incurring expenses incident to any 
emergency or investigative response to that conduct, for those 
expenses.
    (2) Effect of conduct--
          (A) In General--A person described in subparagraph 
        (B) is liable in a civil action to any party described 
        in subparagraph (B)(ii) for any expenses that are 
        incurred by that party--
                  (i) incident to any emergency or 
                investigative response to any conduct described 
                in subparagraph (B)(i); and
                  (ii) after the person that engaged in that 
                conduct should have informed the party of the 
                actual nature of the activity.
          (B) Applicability--A person described in this 
        subparagraph is any person that--
                  (i) engages in any conduct that has the 
                effect of conveying false or misleading 
                information under circumstances where such 
                information may reasonably be believed to 
                indicate that an activity is taking place that 
                would constitute an offense listed under 
                subsection (a)(1);
                  (ii) receives actual notice that another 
                party is taking emergency or investigative 
                action because that party believes that an 
                activity has taken, is taking, or will take 
                place that would constitute an offense listed 
                under subsection (a)(1); and
                  (iii) after receiving such notice, fails to 
                promptly and reasonably inform 1 or more 
                parties described in clause (ii) of the actual 
                nature of the activity.
    (c) Reimbursement.--
          (1) In general.--The court, in imposing a sentence on 
        a defendant who has been convicted of an offense under 
        subsection (a), shall order the defendant to reimburse 
        any state or local government, or private not-for-
        profit organization that provides fire or rescue 
        service incurring expenses incident to any emergency or 
        investigative response to that conduct, for those 
        expenses.
          (2) Liability.--A person ordered to make 
        reimbursement under this subsection shall be jointly 
        and severally liable for such expenses with each other 
        person, if any, who is ordered to make reimbursement 
        under this subsection for the same expenses.
          (3) Civil judgment.--An order of reimbursement under 
        this subsection shall, for the purposes of enforcement, 
        be treated as a civil judgment.
    (d) Activities of Law Enforcement.--This section does not 
prohibit any lawfully authorized investigative, protective, or 
intelligence activity of a law enforcement agency of the United 
States, a State, or political subdivision of a State, or of an 
intelligence agency of the United States.

                TITLE 18--CRIMES AND CRIMINAL PROCEDURE

         PART I--CRIMES, CHAPTER 47--FRAUD AND FALSE STATEMENTS


             CHAPTER 42--EXTORTION AND CREDIT TRANSACTIONS


SEC. 877. MAILING THREATENING COMMUNICATIONS FROM FOREIGN COUNTRY

    Whoever knowingly deposits in any post office or authorized 
depository for mail matter of any foreign country any 
communication addressed to any person within the United States, 
for the purpose of having such communication delivered by the 
post office establishment of such foreign country to the Postal 
Service and by it delivered to such addressee in the United 
States, and as a result thereof such communication is delivered 
by the post office establishment of such foreign country to the 
Postal Service and by it delivered to the address to which it 
is directed in the United States, and containing any demand or 
request for ransom or reward for the release of any kidnapped 
person, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more 
than twenty years, or both.
    Whoever, with intent to extort from any person any money or 
other thing of value, so deposits as aforesaid, any 
communication for the purpose aforesaid, containing any threat 
to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of the 
addressee or of another, shall be fined under this title or 
imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both.
    Whoever knowingly so deposits as aforesaid, any 
communication, for the purpose aforesaid, containing any threat 
to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of the 
addressee or of another, shall be fined under this title or 
imprisoned not more than five years, or both.
    Whoever, with intent to extort from any person any money or 
other thing of value, knowingly so deposits as aforesaid, any 
communication, for the purpose aforesaid, containing any threat 
to injure the property or reputation of the addressee or of 
another, or the reputation of a deceased person, or any threat 
to accuse the addressee or any other person of a crime, shall 
be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two 
years, or both.
    For purposes of this section, the term ``addressed to any 
person'' includes an individual, a corporation or other legal 
person, and a government or agency or component thereof.

                            VII. Conclusion

    The Terrorist Hoax Improvements Act of 2007, S. 735, is a 
narrowly tailored bipartisan measure to improve current law 
relating to hoaxes about terrorist threats.  It also 
strengthens and expands criminal penalties to punish hoaxes 
about the death, injury, capture or disappearance of members of 
the Armed Forces of the United States. Its provisions will 
ensure that adequate penalties are available to punish those 
who perpetrate hoaxes that cause costly disruptions in our 
communities and drain already limited public resources.