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February 12, 2016

Posts in "Surveillance"

January 21, 2015

Obama’s Tech Talk in SOTU

President Barack Obama’s call for lawmakers to pass legislation to address “cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information” in his State of the Union address wasn’t a surprise given his announcements last week in advance of Tuesday night’s speech, but he also mentioned net neutrality, surveillance and space in his speech. Below are some of his science and tech-related mentions:

  • “I intend to protect a free and open internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks, so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world.”
  • “21st century businesses need 21st century infrastructure — modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest internet.”
  • “No foreign nation, no hacker, should be able to shut down our networks, steal our trade secrets, or invade the privacy of American families, especially our kids. We are making sure our government integrates intelligence to combat cyber threats, just as we have done to combat terrorism. And tonight, I urge this Congress to finally pass the legislation we need to better meet the evolving threat of cyber-attacks, combat identity theft, and protect our children’s information.”
  • “So while some have moved on from the debates over our surveillance programs, I haven’t. As promised, our intelligence agencies have worked hard, with the recommendations of privacy advocates, to increase transparency and build more safeguards against potential abuse. And next month, we’ll issue a report on how we’re keeping our promise to keep our country safe while strengthening privacy.”
  • “I want Americans to win the race for the kinds of discoveries that unleash new jobs — converting sunlight into liquid fuel; creating revolutionary prosthetics, so that a veteran who gave his arms for his country can play catch with his kid; pushing out into the Solar System not just to visit, but to stay. Last month, we launched a new spacecraft as part of a re-energized space program that will send American astronauts to Mars. In two months, to prepare us for those missions, Scott Kelly will begin a year-long stay in space. Good luck, Captain — and make sure to Instagram it.”

December 29, 2014

December 12, 2014

Massie, Surveillance and ‘Backdoors’

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., leaves the House Republican Conference meeting in the basement of the Capitol on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., leaves the House Republican Conference meeting in the basement of the Capitol on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A bipartisan group in Congress plans to continue pushing legislation that would ban federal agencies from requiring technology companies to provide “backdoor” access to their products for government surveillance.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., introduced a bill last week to do that, and her co-sponsors include Republicans Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin and Thomas Massie  of Kentucky.  Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden  introduced a Senate version.

A similar proposal was part of a broader amendment by Massie that the House adopted to a defense spending bill earlier this year. That amendment wasn’t included in the final version of the defense bill that’s part of an omnibus spending package that the House passed Thursday night and the Senate is now considering.

Massie told Technocrat on Friday that the bill’s introduction at the tail end of the Congress was “just putting our marker in the ground to say hey, we’re not gonna let this issue go away, and we’ll have to reintroduce it again, probably in January or fairly soon.”

“And I think it’s like eating an elephant one bite at a time,” Massie said. “It’s a small reform, but it’s something that could possibly pass as a stand-alone. It might not have to be an amendment to an appropriation bill or attached to a Patriot Act reauthorization.”


December 8, 2014

The Week Ahead: Human Space Flight, the Sharing Economy and Surveillance

It could be the last week of the 113th Congress (maybe?) and with the December holidays fast approaching, it promises to be a packed with congressional hearings on intellectual property nominees, drones and human space flight and events on issues from surveillance to the sharing economy.


The Advisory Committee to the Congressional Internet Caucus hosts a panel discussion on the sharing economy.

The Direct Marketing Association and Venable LLP hold an event titled the “The Dynamic State of Data: A Policy Briefing for the Data-Driven Marketing Community.”

The Personal Connected Health Alliance’s mHealth Summit on mobile and connected health continues into the week.


The Atlantic holds a panel event on science, technology, education and math careers.

National Consumers League holds a panel discussion on legislation on data security standards.


The American Enterprise Institute holds an event on surveillance, specifically on “legal intercept.”

The Brookings Institution holds an event on mobile technologies and developing economies.

BSA | The Software Alliance holds a panel discussion on data.

The Computer and Communications Industry Association and The American Antitrust Institute hold an event on patent assertion entities.

A House Science, Space and Technology subcommittee holds a hearing on NASA’s heavy rocket and and crew vehicle.

A House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee holds a hearing on drones.

The Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee holds a cybersecurity hearing.

The Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on the nominations of Michelle K. Lee, to head the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and Daniel H. Marti, to be the White House’s intellectual property enforcement coordinator.


The Federal Communications Commission holds its December open meeting.


The Cato Institute holds a day-long surveillance conference.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies holds a panel discussion on the Internet of Things.

December 4, 2014

Rockefeller Gives Farewell Speech


Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.V., interviewed by the press before the Senate policy luncheons in the Capitol. ( Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.V., interviewed by the press before the Senate policy luncheons in the Capitol. ( Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)

The retiring chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee gave his farewell speech Thursday on the Senate floor and he mentioned a few science and tech-related items including surveillance overhaul legislation and the federal program that discounts phone and Internet service for schools and libraries, known as E-Rate.

In case you missed it, some quotes on tech and science issues from Sen. Jay Rockefeller‘s, D-W.Va., farewell speech are below.

On surveillance overhaul legislation.

He described it as having “reforms necessary to uphold the mission of protecting our nation.”

He said:

Because the global threats we face increase daily as the world becomes more connected, we depend on the highly trained professionals at NSA to zero-in on those threats. There’s really only 22 of them that make sort of final decisions. They’re highly trained. They’ve taken the oath of office to protect our nation.

“Now, I don’t think that we have any excuse to outsource our intelligence works to telecommunications firms,” he said. He added that his work on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation panel showed him what telecommunications companies do “when they think they can get away with it. You know, everything from cramming to just all kinds of not very nice things.”

He said it was the government’s job to address the matter, and that it’s been conducted successfully.

“A lot of people say oh well what if. But the fact of the matter is nobody has ever been able to show me somebody whose privacy has been, you know, influenced or broken into by the NSA,” he said.

On E-Rate (he was among the authors of the program):

“We have worked to give children a fair shot through the E-Rate, a program which introduces even the most rural classrooms and smallest libraries to the world through the Internet.”

On the science and research law known as the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act:

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (who preceded John Thune on the Commerce Committee) Senator Alexander and I sought unanimous consent to get the bill passed because we thought we’d worked out the details pretty well, and do it prior to the recess, therefore we had to do it by unanimous consent. But there were five objections holding the bill still. Instead of retreating to party corners and pointing fingers we compromised right on that center aisle…. And we had ourselves a $44 billion bill over five years on which we agreed. We didn’t have to have a vote. Sen Hutchison, Senator Alexamder tenaciously worked to clear the holds. It was, Madam President, absolutely beautiful. It was just beautiful.”

Rockefeller was greeted with handshakes and hugs from fellow senators after his speech.

November 26, 2014

Senate Cybersecurity Vote Not Likely in Lame Duck

Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has acknowledged that a Senate vote on her cybersecurity bill likely isn’t going to happen before the 113th Congress ends, according to a story (subscription) by CQ Roll Call’s Rob Margetta.

Margetta writes that the bill’s backers have been making “last-minute pitches” as the end of the 113th Congress nears, but the bill hasn’t moved in the Senate (It was marked up by the Intelligence panel back in July):

Authorization legislation has remained low on the priority list for years, even while Congress has pointed to cybersecurity as a priority for the nation. But the bill’s supporters are also fighting a perception that the bill’s tangled up in surveillance issues that may make it seem too complicated to be passed.

Leaders of the House Intelligence panel at a recent hearing tried to separate the issues of surveillance and cybersecurity, Margetta reports. The cybersecurity measures in both chambers deal with cyberthreat information sharing between the private sector and government.

Margetta writes:

But in a Congress where surveillance has been a buzzword for the past two years, and where members have constantly been hearing from companies that say they’re worried about losing customers angry about government intrusions, the idea of handing over any more data has run into resistance — even if the bill’s architects stress that they specifically don’t want to collect information on people.

November 19, 2014

Senate Rejects Moving Forward on Surveillance Bill, What’s Next?

The Senate voted against moving forward with a surveillance overhaul bill Tuesday evening and CQ Roll Call’s Steven Dennis has the recap.

Dennis writes:

Republicans led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., voted to block the bill, which came just two votes shy of the 60 needed to come to the floor for debate.

The 58-42 vote fell largely along party lines, with a handful of Republicans (Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Dean Heller, R-Nev., Mike Lee, R-Utah, Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska) breaking from their party to vote in favor of invoking cloture (cutting off debate) on a motion to consider the bill by Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt. Bill Nelson of Florida was the only Democrat who voted in opposition.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., voted in opposition because it would have extended certain expiring provisions of the Patriot Act. “In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Americans were eager to catch and punish the terrorists who attacked us,” he said in a statement. “I, like most Americans, demanded justice. But one common misconception is that the Patriot Act applies only to foreigners—when in reality, the Patriot Act was instituted precisely to widen the surveillance laws to include U.S. citizens.”

CQ Roll Call’s Rob Margetta reports (subscription) that Tuesday’s vote likely pushes any possible action on the National Security Agency’s domestic bulk phone metadata collection to the next Congress, adding that:

With Congress now extremely unlikely to take action in the lame duck, lawmakers will have to act on surveillance before June 2015, when Section 215 statutory language — which even some privacy advocates say contains important surveillance authorities — would expire.

The New York Times looks at the lay of the land for next year:

But Tuesday’s vote only put off until next year a debate over security and personal liberties. While a Republican-controlled Senate is less likely to go along with the kinds of reforms that were in the bill, which sponsors had named the U.S.A. Freedom Act, the debate could further expose rifts between the party’s interventionist and more libertarian-leaning wings.

The new Congress will also be working against a hard deadline because the legal authority for the data collection will expire next year.

The Washington Post reports that the “failure to pass legislation before next year could pose hurdles for the GOP” and writes that it will also be a challenge for the Obama administration.

November 18, 2014

Key Senate Vote Today on Surveillance Overhaul Legislation

The Senate is slated to take a crucial vote on surveillance overhaul legislation later today and as CQ Roll Call’s Rob Margetta writes (subscription), privacy advocates and bill supporters are making one last push.

Margetta reports:

But even supporters worry that the vote is likely to be a close one, and if the bill fails in this session they’re not sure whether it will revived next year.

As a reminder, this isn’t a final vote on the bill. It’s technically a vote whether to invoke cloture (cut off debate) on a motion to take up the bill sponsored by Sen. Patrick. J. Leahy, D-Vt.

Full story

November 17, 2014

The Week Ahead: Sports Blackouts, Intellectual Property and Smart Phone Encryption

It’s a busy week in Washington with several congressional hearings including one on sports blackouts and events on intellectual property and smart phone encryption.

Full story

November 14, 2014

Weekly Wrapup: Net Neutrality, Surveillance Overhaul Legislation & Drones

Net neutrality, surveillance overhaul legislation and drones are in your weekly wrap-up.

Full story

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