OVERNIGHT TECH: House panels battle over NSA

THE LEDE: Two House committees are battling over the path forward for legislation to reform the National Security Agency.

Both the Intelligence Committee and the Judiciary Committee have claim to jurisdiction over the government's surveillance programs. The leaders of the Intelligence Committee want to preserve the NSA's sweeping powers, while Judiciary members are likely to push legislation that will more aggressively rein it in.

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The House Intelligence Committee had planned to vote on an NSA reform bill Thursday, but the Republican leadership intervened and had the mark-up canceled.

A congressional aide told The Hill Wednesday that House leaders had stepped in because they wanted to move the Intelligence Committee's NSA bill directly to the floor. 

But it is now unclear whether leadership has made any decisions about which committee's bill will receive a floor vote.

A House leadership aide said only that "leadership is working to ensure that there is a well-coordinated process."

One House Judiciary aide insisted that the panel has "primary jurisdiction over [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] matters" and "has determined that we need to take legislative action."

"Chairman [Bob] Goodlatte [(R-Va.)] is committed to working with members of the House Judiciary Committee, House leaders, and other members of Congress to ensure our nation’s intelligence collection programs include real protections for Americans’ civil liberties, robust oversight, and additional transparency, while maintaining a workable legal framework for national security officials to keep our country safe from foreign enemies,” the Judiciary aide said.

In a statement, Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said he continues to work with ranking member Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), House leaders and other other lawmakers on the issue.

"I think it’s too soon to say exactly what form that will take or through what process it will move, but I am aware of several members who have good proposals the House should consider," Rogers said. 

It's unclear what bill the House Intelligence Committee had even intended to mark up. Multiple sources said the panel had planned to take up a narrow bill from Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) that would only require the NSA to provide more information to the Intelligence Committee.

But Allison Getty, a spokeswoman for the Intelligence Committee Democrats, said there was "still much that was up in the air."

"The bill and any potential amendments all sought to enhance transparency, accountability, and oversight of the [intelligence community] and its national security laws and programs," Getty said. 

Schumer opposes auction limits: Bucking the Obama administration and most Democrats, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is urging the Federal Communications Commission not to limit the ability of Verizon and AT&T to bid in the upcoming spectrum auction.

The Justice Department has warned that Verizon and AT&T could use the auction to block their competitors' access to spectrum and stifle industry competition. 

But in a letter to the FCC, Schumer argued that the agency should ensure that there is enough revenue to pay for FirstNet — a nationwide wireless network for first responders.

"That is why I urge you, in structuring these auctions, to maximize participation by broadcasters and bidders alike by avoiding limitations that could lower the potential return and disincentivize broadcasters from offering their spectrum for auction," Schumer wrote. 

He worried that the effect of auction caps would "simply be to reduce the amount of spectrum offered for auction as well as the revenue that would be generated in return."

"Ultimately, then, the biggest loser would be FirstNet and the public safety network America needs to thrive in the 21st century," he wrote.   

California approves AT&T/Leap: The California Public Utilities Commission approved AT&T's $1.2 billion bid for Leap Wireless Thursday. Leap, which is based in California, operates Cricket Wireless. The FCC is still reviewing the deal.

FCC moves ahead on inmate calling: The FCC on Thursday denied a petition to delay its order lowering the rates that prisoners and their families pay for phone calls. 

“Justice delayed is justice denied. Families and loved ones have already been waiting ten long years for relief from unlawfully high and unaffordable rates," said FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who pushed the order as acting chairwoman. 

Senate NSA hearing postponed: Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) postponed Thursday's planned hearing on the government's surveillance programs. The hearing was set to take place after committee votes on court nominees, but Republicans didn't show up in protest of the planned votes. 

TiVo lobbies FCC: TiVo general counsel Matthew Zinn was in Washington Thursday to meet with Federal Communications COmmission staff. The company is battling legislation from Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio) that would repeal an FCC rule requiring cable companies to make it easier for TiVo boxes and other devices to access their signals. 

In a C-SPAN interview set to air Saturday, Latta indicated that he is open to attaching his bill to satellite TV reauthorization legislation, which must pass by the end of next year.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) asked the Commerce Department to bring together tech companies and privacy advocates to discuss facial recognition technology.

The FCC will take up a proposal to allow airline passengers to talk on their cellphones during flights.

A group of senators asked the Department of Justice to come clean to the Supreme Court about statements it made in a case over U.S. surveillance programs.

The House Intelligence Committee approved legislation to re-authorize the NSA and other intelligence agencies. 

The White House backs spectrum caps on Verizon and AT&T.

The Federal Election Commission deadlocked on a proposal to allow donations involving bitcoin in political campaigns, dealing a significant setback for proponents of emerging virtual currencies.

A coalition of more than 70 advocacy groups, trade associations and tech companies wrote to congressional leaders, encouraging them to support the surveillance-limiting USA Freedom Act.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) plans to offer his cybersecurity bill as an amendment to the Defense authorization bill  

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other top Silicon Valley executives joined together to urge lawmakers to press ahead with their work on fixing the country’s immigration system.

The House Judiciary Committee approved legislation to crack down on patent trolls. 

 

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