OVERNIGHT TECH: Patriot Act opponents head to 'battle stations'

THE LEDE: Civil libertarians are hunkering down for a fight, after Senate GOP leaders raised the prospect of renewing expiring provisions of the Patriot Act without changes.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellAlabama election has GOP racing against the clock McConnell PAC demands Moore return its money Klobuchar taking over Franken's sexual assault bill MORE's (R-Ky.) bill to reauthorize the law without changes sent civil libertarians to the "battle stations," declared the acting head of the American Civil Liberties Union's (ACLU) Washington office. Instead of a clean reauthorization of the three Patriot Act provisions -- including the controversial Section 215 -- or renewing it while reforming operations at the National Security Agency (NSA), the ACLU on Wednesday urged Congress to let the provisions expire completely. "Allowing Section 215 to sunset is a crucial first step if we want to ensure that this unlawful and ineffective surveillance finally ends," ACLU head Anthony Romero wrote in an op-ed for The Huffington Post. "If we don't allow Section 215 to sunset, we risk making permanent a 'new normal' of government surveillance and extending surveillance programs that haven't yet been -- and may never be -- disclosed to the public." 

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McConnell's move is sure to set off a firestorm in Congress. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrOvernight Energy: Chemical safety regulator's nomination at risk | Watchdog scolds Zinke on travel records | Keystone pipeline spills 210,000 gallons of oil Overnight Regulation: Senators unveil bipartisan gun background check bill | FCC rolls back media regs | Family leave credit added to tax bill | Senate confirms banking watchdog Collins ‘leaning against’ Trump EPA chemical nominee MORE (R-N.C.) -- who cosponsored McConnell's bill -- said that it was intended to set "the parameters we're going to have the debate within," but activist groups will be sure to do all they can to press equally hard on the other side of the issue. Groups from the Center for Democracy and Technology to the Brennan Center for Justice to the American Library Association rallied in opposition to the move on Wednesday. The looming congressional fight is likely to cut across party lines.

In the House, meanwhile, planned legislation from the Judiciary Committee was stalled by opposition from some Intelligence Committee lawmakers, setting up what could be a rockier path to the chamber floor than was initially expected. The panel had hoped to mark up the new version of the USA Freedom Act on Thursday, but not it's not clear when it will even be introduced. A committee aide said the committee hopes to introduce it "soon" to "move forward with legislation that ends the bulk collection program, strengthens protections for Americans' civil liberties, and protects our national security."

GOOGLE'S PROJECT FI: Google is rolling out a mobile service plan called Project Fi starting at $20 per month, plus an extra $10 for every GB of cell data used. The service will incorporate Wi-Fi hotspots around the country with traditional cellular service offered through Sprint and T-Mobile. A person's phone will connect to Wi-Fi with encryption protections. But when Wi-Fi is unavailable, it will switch over to LTE service through either T-Mobile or Sprint, whichever is fastest in a particular area. The program will first only be available through the Nexus 6 phone, which includes the software to allow it to "seamlessly transition" between networks. 

SANTORUM, CEA FIGHT ABOUT PATENT REFORM: Former GOP presidential candidate and Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum and Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Electronics Association, got into a back and forth on patent reform in the pages of The American Spectator on Wednesday. Santorum said broad patent litigation changes could "wreak havoc" on innovation. Shapiro responded that the former senator needs a "basic primer on this topic" and asked if Santorum was "paid by troll lawyers." Santorum said he has not receive "a cent" in the fight. 

COMCAST ADDRESSES CRITICISM: In a lengthy blog post Wednesday, Comcast defended its broadband program meant for low-income individuals and well as its compliance with the terms imposed on the company following its previous merger with NBCUniversal. Comcast and Time Warner Cable were expected to meet with Justice Department lawyers on Wednesday to discuss the proposed merger of the two companies. In the post, Comcast asserted the low-income program, Internet Essentials, is one of the most successful private initiatives to connect more people to the Internet, and it said it has met all 150 conditions of its previous merger, with only a single compliance concern. 

ON TAP: 

At 10 a.m., Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenCongress faces growing health care crisis in Puerto Rico Photos of the Week: Nov. 13-17 Senate panel approves GOP tax plan MORE (D-Ore) is speaking at the top of a Computer and Communications Industry Association event about cybersecurity on Capitol Hill.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: 

The fight to reform the Patriot Act grew complicated on Wednesday, after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) offered a surprising, late-night bill to extend the existing law without changes.

The advocacy group Public Knowledge is asking to help defend new net neutrality rules against the spate of lawsuits seeking to tear them down. 

Republicans on a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee approved a bill Wednesday that would crack down on abusive patent demand letters

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on Wednesday appealed to Internet activists who have relentlessly criticized him over his support for "fast-track" trade legislation. 

A couple of lawmakers are looking for hackers' help.

 

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