OVERNIGHT TECH: Senate Intel to examine NSA spying

THE LEDE: The Senate Intelligence Committee will hold a public hearing on the government's surveillance programs on Thursday afternoon.

The witnesses will be Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith Alexander and Deputy Attorney General James Cole. A second panel will feature Ben Wittes of the Brookings Institution and Tim Edgar of the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University.

The hearing, the first by the panel since Edward Snowden's leaks, will be an important opportunity to learn about the members' plans for legislation.

Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has said she is working on legislation to improve privacy protections, but her bill is unlikely to satisfy the Senate's more vocal privacy advocates.


"I believe we are making some substantive changes," Feinstein told reporters on Tuesday. "They may not be enough for some people, and I understand that."

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Two of those more vocal privacy advocates — Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) — will also be at Wednesday's hearing to make their case for reining in the NSA. The last time the Senate Intelligence Committee held a public hearing, in March, Wyden and Clapper had their now-infamous exchange in which Clapper said the NSA does "not wittingly" collect data on millions of Americans. After Snowden revealed the agency's massive phone record collection program, Clapper apologized for the misleading comment. 

Comprehensive surveillance reform ‘reassuring’: The fact that a group of four senators is banding together to push a comprehensive surveillance reform package is “reassuring,” Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Mark Jaycox said. “Now it's time for the Senators' fellow members to get behind these reforms and make sure that the illegal and unconstitutional actions by the NSA ends.”

True surveillance reform must include the end of bulk call record data collection, ceasing surveillance into Americans’ calls and emails, transparency at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and “fixing the NSA's attempt to undermine cryptographic standards thereby making everyone unsafe,” he said.

Data broker law needed: Privacy advocates applauded Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) for expanding his investigation of data brokers into consumer-facing websites — and they hope he does more. 

John Simpson, director of Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project, said he hopes Rockefeller “can shine a light on what's going on and then will work to enact legislation that will give consumers control over their data, how it is used and whether it is even collected.” 

Data brokers “face few constraints when they violate our privacy,” and it's time for Congress to protect a consumer's most sensitive personal information,” Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, said.

Offline Americans: According to a new Pew study, 15 percent of American adults do not use the Internet or email. Large numbers of non-Internet users said they don’t use the Internet because they have no interest or need and are not easily able to access the Internet.

Tough Apple remedy necessary: The U.S. government should push for tough remedies to ensure that successful antitrust cases do all they can to restore balance to the marketplace, Bill Baer, assistant attorney general of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division, said in his prepared remarks to a Georgetown Law event on Thursday. 

Baer cited the government’s recently successful suit against Apple over its attempt to collude with book publishers to fix prices for e-books. 

"Our approach to remedy here — after a hard-fought litigation battle — was to obtain an injunction that would stamp out any lingering effects of the conspiracy, prevent Apple and others from engaging in similar conduct in the future, and ensure that Apple put in place the training and internal compliance controls needed to avoid a recurrence,” he said.


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Tech groups want to see more from House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) on patent reform. 

Questions about the constitutionality of NSA surveillance will likely end up at the nation’s highest court, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said Wednesday. 

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) reminds voters that she’s pushing for electronic devices to be allowed on airplanes. 

NSA collaboration with tech-standards-setting body a good thing, official says.

Cybersecurity information sharing legislation will be even harder to pass after a summer of Snowden leaks, the bill’s author, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), says.  

NSA director asks for help to keep the agency’s surveillance powers amid calls from Congress for more privacy protections. 


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