This Week in Tech: House to examine NSA surveillance programs

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Witnesses will be James Cole from the Justice Department, John Inglis from the National Security Agency (NSA), Robert Litt from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and Stephanie Douglas from the FBI.

The second panel will be made up of Jameel Jaffer from the American Civil Liberties Union and other experts on national security and surveillance. 

Leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the government has been using Section 702 of FISA to obtain people’s online data and communications through a program called PRISM.

Snowden also revealed the NSA has been using the Patriot Act to obtain records on millions of phone calls within the United States.

Democratic and Republican leaders of the House Judiciary Committee have expressed concern about the breadth of the programs. 

“It seems clear the government’s activity exceeds the authority this Congress has provided — both in letter and in spirit,” Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) said during a hearing last month, referring to the phone data collection program.

Conyers and other lawmakers have introduced legislation to limit the NSA’s powers under the Patriot Act, while Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has introduced a bill to curb FISA.

In other technology news, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday on expanding the Federal Communications Commission's E-Rate program to provide faster Internet in schools. President Obama called on the FCC to modernize the program last month. 

“Nearly 17 years since we first launched E-Rate, it’s time to strengthen the program,” Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said in a statement. “We’ve got to bring the promise of next-generation broadband connectivity to more schools and libraries and begin to level the playing field for more of our children."

On Friday, the FCC will vote on whether to move forward with its plan for expanding E-Rate.

The House Homeland Security Committee’s Cybersecurity subcommittee will examine President Obama’s executive order on cybersecurity and the administration’s development of a cybersecurity framework under the cyber order at a Thursday hearing.

The president signed the executive order in February. This fall, the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology is expected to put forward a framework on cybersecurity standards for industry to follow.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday to examine whether online gambling companies are exploiting consumers.

“Internet gambling is a multi-billion dollar industry that comes with some serious risks, including the potential for money laundering used for terrorist financing. This alone demands that we take a hard look at what a growing Internet gambling industry means as more states have recent laws permitting online wagering,” Rockefeller said.

He said Congress needs to “fix any existing gaps that allow underage gambling or otherwise leave consumers vulnerable to fraud and abuse.”

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday morning will take a look at how the Department of Homeland Security can harness science and technology advances to bolster national security and operate more efficiently. 

The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade will hold a hearing on Thursday to consider whether federal data breach legislation is necessary.

Former subcommittee Chairwoman Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) pushed legislation last Congress that would have required companies to notify consumers following a data breach, but Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) has so far chosen to focus more on manufacturing issues as chairman of the panel.

The law firm Wiley Rein will host a panel discussion on the implementation of the cybersecurity executive order on Wednesday at noon.

The speakers will include Jeanette Manfra, a cybersecurity official for the Homeland Security Department; Adam Sedgewick, an adviser for the National Institute of Standards and Technology; Emile Monette with the General Services Administration; Roger Jordan, a vice president with the Professional Services Council; and John Marinho with CTIA—the Wireless Association.