At first I thought this Wired article, Cybercrime Bill Ups the Ante, was going to tell me about some nonsense idea brought up by lawmakers but after reading the article I think they may have found a legitimate reason for asking for such a harsh sentance regarding certain types of hacking;
In cases where miscreants attempt “to cause death or serious bodily injury” through electronic means, the punishment is life imprisonment.
Now I’m sure many of you are thinking, “How could hacking cause death or serious bodily injury?” Not all computers on the internet hosts websites, mail servers or music servers. There is a growing number of nodes that are accessible through the internet that control industrial processes, support aviation needs, and all sorts of other things where starting and stopping motors, opening and closing valves and regulating temperature, pressure and speed are concerned.
Considering the above, there are all sorts of opportunities for mischief that could cause serious injury or death. I think there are probably local laws that would cover those actions, though. I’m not sure why the federal government would feel a need to get involved. If the hacking was done across state lines there would already be a cause to involve federal authorities. The same goes for international hacking.