This Week in Tech: Senate to move on NSA legislation

Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.), vocal civil liberties advocates, are expected to offer their own, more aggressive proposals to rein in the NSA’s power as amendments to Feinstein’s bill.

The Intelligence Committee’s markup, tentatively planned for Thursday, will be closed to the public.

Although Feinstein’s bill is designed to mostly preserve the NSA’s power, another committee with a claim to jurisdiction over surveillance and privacy issues is taking a far different approach. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is working on his own legislation to end the NSA’s bulk phone data program and enhance privacy protections.

Leahy’s panel will hold a hearing on Wednesday morning to examine the NSA’s surveillance programs. NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper are expected to face more hostile questioning than they did at the previous week’s hearing before the Intelligence Committee.

It is unclear which committee’s bill will ultimately reach the Senate floor for consideration.

In other technology news, the Senate Commerce Committee will vote on Thursday morning on Michael O'Rielly's nomination to the Federal Communications Commission and Terrell McSweeny's nomination to the Federal Trade Commission.

The Department of Justice has until Monday evening to respond to lawsuits from five major tech companies. Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Facebook and LinkedIn have filed suits against the government, arguing that they should be able to disclose aggregate numbers about requests for user information they receive under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

On Friday, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board will hold a public hearing on U.S. government surveillance programs. Current and formal officials will speak about the laws and legal review governing the phone and electronic communications data.

The morning panel will include general counsels from the NSA, FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence — Rajesh De, Andrew Weissmann and Robert Litt, respectively — and John Carlin, acting assistant attorney general for national security at the Department of Justice.

The first afternoon panel will include former Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Judge James Carr and two former Justice Department officials. The second panel will be made up of “academics and outside experts,” including former Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), current CEO of the Woodrow Wilson Center.

The House Communications and Technology subcommittee will hold a Tuesday morning hearing to examine “challenges and opportunities” in the 5 GHz spectrum band, which the FCC plans to use to improve WiFi performance.