I came here to post this as well, and to say it sounds incompetent that they required no credentials and no authorization to let someone use their systems - yet claim it was a a crime. They did not even look for the person for 2 months (according to the article).
What's worse is he basically broke the terms and conditions on JSTOR's site, and the MIT networking terms, and got charged with 30+ years of felonies (!). Possibly because he was a critic of the government as noted in the article (!).
Be careful what crap you agree to when you agree to a network or sites terms and conditions!
That's exactly my point - two cases that made the front page on two nerd sites doesn't substantiate the claim that
"By all indication anything relating to computers, hacking or security research is considered one of the "worst" crimes in the USA. Hackers seem to be getting longer sentences then career criminals these days."
The mere fact that there are just two such cases, and that everybody recites the same two cases when making such gross exaggerations as the one above, reinforces my point about living in an echo chamber.
I think the more important distinction to make is between compelled testimony and voluntary testimony.
I think we should encourage people to come forward of their own free will, both by making it safer to do so and by educating them on the benefits to society. In a sense I think this because I have faith in my local police, and see them as a part of the community, not as an "other."
Same as you, though, I don't believe believe in expanding their powers to compel people to come forward, because that obviously has scary negative consequences.