OVERNIGHT TECH: Senate panel delivers win for cyber hawks

THE LEDE: The Senate Intelligence Committee’s approval of new cybersecurity legislation was a boon for hawks looking to defend the country’s Web networks but sparked fears from some corners about an invasion of privacy.

Leaders of the House Intelligence panel, who helped shepherd legislation through the lower chamber last year, praised the Senate action. Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and ranking member Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) said that the bill “allows American companies to better protect their networks from the daily onslaught of damaging cyber attacks.” “These attacks cost our country billions of dollars through the loss of jobs and intellectual property,” they added. “We are confident that the House and the Senate will quickly come together to address this urgent threat and craft a final bill that secures our networks and protects privacy and civil liberties.”

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Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) called the bill a “counterpunch” to cyber criminals who have attacked the U.S. for years. “Working together, the public and private sectors can defend American ideas and processes, as well as critical infrastructure, and give ourselves a leg up on the new digital battlefield while also safeguarding important privacy protections,” he said. “I look forward to working to continue to strengthen the bill, and I call on the full Senate to consider this critical legislation, along with any amendments to improve upon it, as soon as possible.”

The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) would allow companies to voluntarily share information about possible hackers and cyber thieves with each other and the government. That has led to fears from digital rights advocates and civil libertarians that the National Security Agency and other government arms could have too much control over people’s personal information. Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and ranking member Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) made some changes to try and accommodate those fears, but they were not enough for all lawmakers.

Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) both voted against the bill and feared that it “lacks adequate protections for the privacy rights of law-abiding Americans, and that it will not materially improve cybersecurity.” In the wake of leaks from Edward Snowden, they said in a statement after the markup, “we have seen how the federal government has exploited loopholes to collect Americans' private information in the name of security. The only way to make cybersecurity information-sharing effective and acceptable is to ensure that there are strong protections for Americans’ constitutional privacy right.”

House Judiciary sets STELA markup: The House Judiciary Committee will take up legislation to renew an expiring satellite TV law on Thursday morning, it announced. The draft bill released ahead of the markup session avoids any controversial changes to the current system allowing cable and satellite companies to beam programs to people’s homes, and instead favors a “clean” reauthorization of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act. The bill is set to expire this year, but would run until 2019 under the terms of the draft bill.

Assuming the House Judiciary panel passes its bill, the pressure would be on the Senate Commerce Committee to act. Of the four committees with authority over STELA, the Senate Commerce panel has yet to move. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed a relatively clean version of STELA late last month, weeks after lawmakers on the House Commerce Committee passed a bill making some reforms, but not as many as critics of the current TV marketplace had sought. Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) has pledged to more substantively overhaul the way that cable and satellite companies pay for broadcast programming.

Schumer would oppose Obama’s reported patent pick: Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he has “big concerns” about reports that the Obama administration is considering nominating Johnson and Johnson intellectual property lawyer Phil Johnson to fill the vacant position as director of the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). Schumer said he would oppose Johnson’s nomination and has told the White House as much. “They seem very open to my concerns,” he said.

Schumer was a key player in Senate negotiations over patent reform before Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) shelved his bill earlier this year. Johnson’s reportedly forthcoming nomination has sparked concerns among patent reform advocates, who worry that Johnson — who represented the Coalition for 21st Century Patent Reform, which opposed broad patent reform — would be an obstacle as PTO director, if Congress were to try to pass a reform bill next year.

Grassley piles on: Senate Judiciary ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) declined to comment on Johnson’s potential nomination but said the momentum for patent reform won’t be stopped. He pointed to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s work to find a compromise and an overwhelming vote in the House last year to pass that chamber’s patent reform bill. “I don’t see how anybody is going to stop patent reform, and they shouldn’t stop it,” he said.

Leahy blames Reid for killing patent reform: Leahy, meanwhile, officially pointed the finger at Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for killing patent reform in an interview with his hometown Burlington Free Press. "I am furious with what happened," Leahy told the newspaper. "We worked so hard to get a coalition. Harry Reid and a couple of others said, 'We won't let it come to the floor.' I think that's wrong, but I'm not going to give up."

Republicans have repeatedly blamed Reid for killing the reform effort earlier this year, but Leahy has largely avoided blaming the upper chamber leader. In particular, critics have said that Reid caved to trial lawyers and the pharmaceutical industry by blocking the measure from reaching the Senate floor.  

Senate Judiciary sets eyes on botnets: The Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism has scheduled a hearing on taking out cybercriminal networks for next Tuesday. Witnesses have yet to be announced.

GOP gets the dot: The Republican Party unrolled its new domain name system for public consumption on Tuesday by offering websites ending in .gop. Republicans have hoped that the effort will help close some of the digital gap that plagued the party during the 2012 presidential election and serve as a useful branding tool. Website domains are on sale for $20.16 each. Democrats won’t have a domain of their own, which will give the GOP a “strategic advantage online,” .gop sales and marketing vice president Will Martinez said in a statement.  

Staff shakeup at NRF: The National Retail Federation announced on Tuesday that it hired Paul Martino, a former co-chair of Alston and Bird’s privacy and data security shop, as vice president and senior policy counsel and promoted Beth Provenzano to vice president for federal government relations. Both will help the shop trade group’s push on data security, patent reform and privacy issues.

Data Transparency Coalition nabs TechAmerica staffer: Stephanie Craig, who led communications at the TechAmerica trade group, is headed over to the Data Transparency Coalition to assist with their open government push.

 

ON TAP:

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is holding a workshop on reforming phone call rules for inmates starting at 9:30. Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler and Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel deliver remarks at the top of the event. At 11:30, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) steps up to speak.

The House Agriculture Committee looks at “the societal benefits of biotechnology" at 10 a.m.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

The Senate Intelligence Committee voted 12-3 to advance a cybersecurity bill that privacy advocates fear will give more information to the National Security Agency (NSA) and other government agencies. 

Making sure all surfers on the Web enjoy the same speed no matter which website they visit is a fundamental free speech issue, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said.

A Republican on the FCC is accusing FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler of politicizing the agency’s program to boost Internet access in schools and libraries. 

Major tech companies like Facebook, Yahoo and Google aren’t doing enough to add more women and minority workers to their rolls, three Northern California Democrats charged on Tuesday. 

More than 4 in 10 American homes are landline phone-free and relying exclusively on cellphone service, according to a government survey released Tuesday. 

 

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