OVERNIGHT TECH: Obama administration, House Intelligence leaders unveil NSA reform plans

THE LEDE: Lawmakers looking for an overhaul of the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of records about people’s phone calls expressed support about President Obama’s plan to end the collection on Tuesday.

The White House’s proposed legislation, which has yet to be formally unveiled, would have phone companies store records about people’s phone calls and allow government agents to search the database with a court order. 

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Some criticized the fact that the administration’s plan only addresses the controversial phone metadata program.

“The President’s proposal, as described, would require intelligence agencies to get court approval before obtaining phone records, but the Obama proposal is only limited to phone records,” Harley Geiger, senior counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology, said in a statement.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said he welcomes "this apparently modest step in the right direction" but sees a need for further reform, including at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees the government surveillance programs.

“The significance of the plan really depends on the details, which have not yet fully been made public, but I applaud this effort to rationalize and restrict the excessively broad collection of personal data," he told The Hill.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, defended the president’s plans. While there is “certainly” more to be done on the broad issue of surveillance, “the fact that the administration’s proposal only goes to telephone metadata I don’t view as the end of the debate,” he said. 

“I think the administration is probably open to limiting the bulk collection of other forms of data,” such as data about online communications, he said, adding that he wants “the administration and Congress ... to curtail bulk collection more generally.”

Like the White House proposal, the bill unveiled by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and ranking member Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) would also shift the database out of government hands, but would not require court approval before searching it. Reformers raised concerns about the lack of court oversight in the bill but applauded the lawmakers’ effort to rein in the program.

Schiff said the Intelligence Committee leaders’ bill should require members of the intelligence community to get court approval before searching through the data.

“There’s no reason not to go to the court first,” he said, noting the carveout for emergency circumstances. “You still get all the information you need to protect the country.”

The lawmakers’ proposal would be “one step forward ten steps back, and might be, at the end of the day, a net negative for civil liberties,” said Michelle Richardson, legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union. 

Graham, Chaffetz to unveil bill to ban online gambling: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) are scheduled to unveil a bill Wednesday that would make online gambling illegal.

While online gambling of all kinds had been illegal, the Justice Department said in 2011 that the Wire Act only prohibited online sports betting. The new bill from Graham and Chaffetz would restore the former interpretation of the Wire Act, making most forms of online gambling illegal. The bill is similar to a draft bill floated last year by lobbyists for vocal online gambling critic Sheldon Adelson, who donates to the Republican Party and owns the Las Vegas Sands Corp.

The lawmakers' push to ban online gambling comes as states move forward with their own legalized online gambling programs. Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey already allow online gambling within their borders, and a handful of other states are seriously considering following suit. At the same time, some in Congress, led by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), are pushing for Congress to legalize certain forms of online gambling at a federal level.

Blackburn, Eshoo agree on radio fees: Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) joined forces Tuesday to push for performance royalty rates for songs played over AM/FM radio stations. Currently, AM/FM radio stations do not have to pay artists when stations play artists’ songs over the air. Broadcasters say they shouldn’t have to pay to play an artist’s song because they are giving that artist free publicity.

Blackburn, vice chairman of the House Commerce Committee, compared broadcasters’ stance on radio fees to the companies’ negotiations with cable and satellite companies, where the broadcasters often push for higher compensation for broadcast television content. Broadcasters say that negotiations over television content are “fair because cable and satellite stations make millions by transmitting local broadcast content,” she said, but “when it comes to music, the same broadcasters ... sing a completely different tune.”

Eshoo, ranking member of the House Commerce subcommittee on Communications, agreed with Blackburn, saying the current system is “not a fair model at all.” Broadcast lobbyists “did a hell of a job with the Congress to get this exception in,” she said of the broadcasters’ ability to avoid paying for the songs it plays.

Eshoo also commended Blackburn for her dogged pursuit of the issue. “She’s been on this really like white on rice for some time,” she said.

Blumenthal wants opt-in for 'Internet of Things': Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said that consumers should have to give permission to “Internet of Things” devices that collect and share information about them.

“For me, the key is personal choice,” he said, speaking at a Washington Post event. “People should have a right to decide themselves what’s done with [their] data.”

He pointed to privacy-enhancing bills that he has introduced, but noted the inherent difficulty of moving any legislation in a divided Congress. Still, he said, “there is very, very strong feeling and worry on the part of consumers which will be reflected in Congress.”

Report finds mature economy in cyber black markets: Analysis from the Rand Corp., sponsored by Juniper Networks, found that the market for tools to steal data and commit cybercrime s mature and growing. The report, released on Tuesday, found that the cyber black market is robust and “can be more profitable than the illegal drug trade” for some.

"The security industry, government and legal communities must come together to establish new norms for how companies can more vigorously defend themselves against cyber-attacks,” Nawaf Bitar, Juniper Networks’s senior vice president and general manager for security, said in a statement. 

MIT student sues over Mandela docs: A doctoral candidate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is suing the NSA, FBI and Defense Intelligence Agency for the agencies’ refusal to hand over documents about Nelson Mandela, which he asked for under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

Ryan Shapiro, the student, asked the agencies for information about the United States’s role in the late anti-apartheid icon’s arrest in 1962 and placement on the U.S. terror watch list in 2008. Shapiro is already suing the Central Intelligence Agency over the same issue.

The NSA denied his request because the materials need to be “kept secret in the interest of national defense.”

Senate Commerce to hold STELA hearing: The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act on April 1, Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) announced on Tuesday. Reauthorizing the law, which allows satellite companies to beam broadcast channels to some rural viewers, has already come up for debate in the House Commerce panel, and the Senate Judiciary Committee will weigh in on Wednesday. 

Senate Homeland Security to hold data breach hearing: The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs will hold a hearing on data breaches and “protecting personal information from harm” on April 2.

Judiciary panel pushes back cable merger review:  The Senate Judiciary Committee is pushing back a hearing on the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable until April 9. It will be the second delay for the hearing, previously set for April 2, which was originally scheduled for Wednesday.  

 

ON TAP

The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing on reauthorization of the satellite TV law at 10 a.m.

At the same time, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will explore ways to strengthen cybersecurity.

The House Armed Services Committee is exploring “technology superiority in a changing security environment” in the afternoon.

At 2:30 p.m., the Senate Commerce Committee will take a look at data breach issues with Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, as well as representatives from Target and the University of Maryland, which recently suffered high-profile data breaches.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Retail giant Target missed multiple opportunities to prevent its high-profile data breach last year, according to a Senate Commerce Committee staff report released Tuesday.

Silicon Valley is putting its lobbying weight behind Rep. Anna Eshoo’s (D-Calif.) bid to become the top Democrat on a powerful committee.

The Federal Communications Commission needs an extra $35 million to update its systems and crack down on fraud, Chairman Tom Wheeler told lawmakers.

The House Commerce subcommittee on Communications passed a compromise bill to reauthorize the law governing satellite television, despite members’ calls for broader reforms to the video market.

 

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