OVERNIGHT TECH: Leahy demands answers on latest spying leak

THE LEDE: The steady stream of leaks on National Security Agency surveillance continued Wednesday with a Washington Post report that the agency has broken into overseas communications links of data centers operated by Google and Yahoo.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said he is "deeply concerned" about the report and demanded a briefing from the administration. 

"If the reports are true, this infiltration could be sweeping in the communications of millions of Americans who use the services of these two U.S. companies every day," he said in a statement. "I will be asking whether this report is accurate, what legal authority the government is using, and how they are protecting the privacy rights of law-abiding Americans.”

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According to the report, tapping into the networks could give the NSA access to hundreds of millions of user accounts, including many belonging to Americans. The records include the "to" and "from" on emails, as well as the contents of communications, such as text, audio and video.

The program is reportedly operated under Executive Order 12333 — not the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or the Patriot Act, like other spying programs. 

In a formal statement, NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines did not deny that the NSA is intercepting Google and Yahoo traffic overseas.

"The Washington Post’s assertion that we use Executive Order 12333 collection to get around the limitations imposed by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and [FISA Amendments Act] 702 is not true," she said. "The assertion that we collect vast quantities of U.S. persons’ data from this type of collection is also not true."

The revelation could provide a further burst of moment to efforts on Capitol Hill to rein in the NSA. Leahy introduced his USA Freedom Act Tuesday to end a separate NSA bulk collection program.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said Tuesday that the USA Freedom Act, authored in the House by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), is a "good first step and will generate a healthy discussion about what provisions need to be changed in current law."

The Senate Intelligence Committee is expected to continue its markup of Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein's (D-Calif.) alternate NSA reform bill on Thursday. That legislation would enhance transparency and oversight but ratify the core of the NSA's spying power.  

Wheeler heads to FCC: Tom Wheeler plans to be sworn in as the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission on Monday, according to an agency official.

He spoke by phone with acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn Tuesday evening after his Senate confirmation vote, the official said. 

"Chairwoman Clyburn has led the Commission with dedication and vision for six months. We all owe Chairwoman Clyburn a huge thank you," Wheeler said in a statement. 

U.S. needs to send signal to EU: The author of the EU data regulation that is gaining momentum across the Atlantic criticized the U.S. government for failing to adequately protect the data of U.S. citizens. Data processing of Europeans' data should only happen in places that have adequate legal protections for that data, Jan Philipp Albrecht, who represents Germany in the EU Parliament, said.

Amid revelations about mass surveillance, “now is the moment to get some signal” that the U.S. is willing create an environment with those adequate legal protections, he said. “I think it’s getting [more] urgent every day.”

Albrecht repeated assurances that the EU data regulation “doesn’t touch on the safe harbor agreement,” which gives the Federal Trade Commission authority to oversee U.S. companies that deal with European’s data. A revocation from the European Commission would be the only thing that could eliminate the agreement, he said.

Innovation Alliances slams hearing: The Innovation Alliance criticized a hearing on patent law in California this week for failing to include varied voices from the technology industry.

“It is unfortunate that the Committee has chosen to ignore the important perspective of innovators, entrepreneurs and the general public at today’s hearing,” the group’s executive director, Brian Pomper, said in a statement. “We need to be careful not to allow an emotional reaction against ‘patent trolls’ to lead us toward legislative changes that would weaken patent rights for all companies.”

Correction: A previous version of this article mischaracterized the Innovation Alliance statement. The group was criticizing a recent hearing on patents held by the California legislature, not the recent Congressional hearing.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

The NSA denied spying on the Pope.

Sen Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced a patent bill.

EU officials criticized the U.S. for taking so long to respond to questions about its surveillance of Europeans.

Tech companies, online advertisers and privacy advocates will continue their attempts to outline a Do Not Track tool.

The Senate Armed Service chairman said NSA issues should be left out of the defense authorization bill.

Zuckerberg's group dialed up pressure on immigration reform.

Wheeler promised to focus on promoting the Internet.

  

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