Hillicon Valley: Court rejects Chelsea Manning appeal | Facebook hires lawyer who helped write Patriot Act | Senator seeks details on Russian interference in Florida | Amazon hiring alcohol lobbyist | Ex-Obama aide lobbying for Sprint, T-Mobile merger

Hillicon Valley: Court rejects Chelsea Manning appeal | Facebook hires lawyer who helped write Patriot Act | Senator seeks details on Russian interference in Florida | Amazon hiring alcohol lobbyist | Ex-Obama aide lobbying for Sprint, T-Mobile merger
© Getty Images

Welcome to Hillicon Valley, The Hill's newsletter detailing all you need to know about the tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. If you don't already, be sure to sign up for our newsletter with this LINK.

Welcome! Follow the cyber team, Olivia Beavers (@olivia_beavers) and Jacqueline Thomsen (@jacq_thomsen), and the tech team, Harper Neidig (@hneidig) and Emily Birnbaum (@birnbaum_e).


THE STAMP JOURNALISTS GET ON CREDIT CARD APPS... DENIED: A federal appeals court has denied Chelsea ManningChelsea Elizabeth ManningOvernight Defense: National Guard activated to fight coronavirus | Pentagon 'fairly certain' North Korea has cases | General says Iran threat remains 'very high' after US strikes The Hill's Morning Report — Coronavirus tests a partisan Washington Judge orders Chelsea Manning's release from jail MORE's request to overturn an order finding her in contempt for refusing to testify before a grand jury.

The order, issued Monday, rejected Manning's argument that a judge improperly denied her request to say whether she was electronically surveilled illegally after her conviction in 2013 for leaking classified material to WikiLeaks.


"Upon consideration of the memorandum briefs filed on appeal and the record of proceedings in the district court, the court finds no error in the district court's rulings and affirms its finding of civil contempt," the order reads. "The court also denies appellant's motion for release on bail."

Manning has been held in contempt in a federal prison since March, after she refused to testify before a grand jury in a WikiLeaks investigation. A federal judge has ordered her to remain incarcerated until Manning agrees to answer questions.

What about Assange? The order also comes shortly after the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian AssangeJulian Paul AssangeJudge orders Chelsea Manning's release from jail Lawyers: Chelsea Manning recovering after suicide attempt Hillicon Valley: Twitter falling short on pledge to verify primary candidates | Barr vows to make surveillance reforms after watchdog report | DHS cyber chief focused on 2020 MORE.

Federal prosecutors in the U.S. allege in recently unsealed court filings that Assange sought to help Manning crack a password to a computer on a Defense Department network that contained classified materials.

The prosecutors have noted that it's unclear if the password was ever hacked, and the charge against Assange is unrelated to WikiLeaks's publication of classified materials.

Legal experts have pointed to Manning's current case as a sign that further charges could be filed against Assange, ahead of his extradition proceedings from the United Kingdom to the U.S.

Read more here.


BOLD CHOICE: Facebook has tapped a top State Department lawyer who was credited with helping write the controversial 2001 Patriot Act as its new general counsel, beefing up its legal team as the company faces increasing regulatory and political pressure in the U.S. and around the world.

Facebook announced in a press release on Monday that Jennifer Newstead, currently the legal adviser to the State Department, will be taking over for the departing Colin Stretch.

"Jennifer is a seasoned leader whose global perspective and experience will help us fulfill our mission," COO Sheryl Sandberg said in a statement. "We are also truly grateful to Colin for his dedicated leadership and wise counsel over the past nine years. He has played a crucial role in some of our most important projects and has created a strong foundation for Jennifer to build upon."

Newstead's background: Newstead was nominated to the State Department position by President TrumpDonald John TrumpMilitary personnel to handle coronavirus patients at facilities in NYC, New Orleans and Dallas Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort has total of 20 patients: report Fauci says that all states should have stay-at-home orders MORE and confirmed by the Senate in 2017.

BuzzFeed reported that year that while serving in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Policy, Newstead had been credited with helping to craft and pass the Patriot Act, which gave the government broad surveillance and detention authorities in the wake of 9/11.

In a press release at the time, Assistant Attorney General Viet Dinh said of Newstead, "Her enhanced leadership duties and her excellent service on a range of issues -- including helping craft the new U.S.A. Patriot Act to protect the United States against terror -- have earned her this important distinction. She is first among equals."

And according to BuzzFeed, former Bush administration lawyer John Yoo called her the "day-to-day manager of the Patriot Act in Congress."

Read more here.


SHINING SOME LIGHT ON FLORIDA ELECTIONS: Florida Sen. Rick Scott (R) on Friday sent a letter to the FBI asking for evidence to corroborate details in special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE's report about Russia's election interference in the Sunshine State.

The senator asked the bureau to confirm whether a Florida county government's network was accessed by Russian agents during the 2016 election, as the report stated, and which county government the report referred to.

"It is my goal to have free and fair elections with zero fraud, which is why, as Governor, I invested millions of dollars in cyber security, hired additional cyber security staff, and secured election security grants for all 67 counties in Florida," he said in the letter. "This is a very serious issue that needs the immediate attention of the FBI."

The Mueller report, released Thursday, said that Russia's intelligence directorate, known as the GRU, sent "spearphishing" emails that contained malicious software to Florida county government officials tasked with administering the 2016 election.

"We understand the FBI believes that this operation enabled the GRU to gain access to the network of at least one Florida county government," the report said.  

The Florida Department of State said in a statement Thursday that it has "no knowledge or evidence of any successful hacking attempt at the county level during the 2016 elections" and said the FBI declined to share more information when asked, according to Orlando Weekly.

Read more here.


HELP FROM OBAMA WORLD: A former Obama White House aide has been working for Sprint to push for its proposed $26 billion merger with T-Mobile, according to a filing submitted to Congress.

The filing, which was posted Monday, shows that Broderick Johnson, now a lobbyist with Covington & Burling, has been working for Sprint since Feb. 4.

Johnson previously served as an assistant to former President Obama and as his liaison to Cabinet officials from 2014 to 2017.

Sitting Democrats have largely opposed the deal out of concern about further consolidation of the wireless market. But T-Mobile and Sprint have hired or won over some top current and former Democratic officials.

Former FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn announced earlier this year that she would be advising the two companies on their deal. And a handful of House Democrats, led by Rep. Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooBottom line Hillicon Valley: Facebook, Twitter dismantle Russian interference campaign targeting African Americans | YouTube to allow ads on coronavirus videos | Trump signs law banning federal funds for Huawei equipment House Democrats introduce bills to penalize census misinformation MORE (Calif.), have backed the merger.

Read more here.


MORE SPEECH PLEASE: A group of mainly U.S.-based Microsoft employees on Monday urged the company to protect a group of Chinese tech workers from state censorship.

In a petition, the group of Microsoft employees called on their employer to refuse to bow down to Chinese state pressure as a group of Chinese tech workers speaks out about their working conditions on a channel run by Github, which is owned by the tech giant.

Chinese workers have been using Microsoft-owned Github, an open-source website that allows programmers to collaborate on code, to lament their "996" schedules. Chinese executives have touted the "996 policy," which forces tech employees to work from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days per week, as a strategy to make their tech sector more productive.

Tech workers in China say the policy has put them in harm's way, with negative effects on their mental, physical and emotional health.

A growing group of Chinese tech workers has gathered on a Github "repository," or project, to demand better working conditions and rail against the "996" policy.

The "996.ICU" Github repository, a reference to the possibility that workers will end up in an intensive care unit if they work 72 hours per week, has grown in popularity even as some major Chinese browsers have limited access to it in China.

The U.S. Microsoft workers in the letter, obtained by The Hill and other news outlets, raise concerns that the Chinese government will ask Microsoft and Github to remove the "996.ICU" repository.

"Tech workers in China started a GitHub repository titled 996.ICU, a reference to the grueling and illegal working hours of many tech companies in China -- from 9am to 9pm, 6 days a week," the Microsoft employees wrote.

"We must entertain the possibility that Microsoft and GitHub will be pressured to remove the repository as well," the workers wrote. "We encourage Microsoft and GitHub to keep the 996.ICU GitHub repository uncensored and available to everyone."

"996.ICU" is one of the fastest-growing repositories in Github's history.

The Microsoft letter comes as tech companies are facing growing scrutiny over their work in China, as critics say most technologies made in the country are subject to the whims of its government.

Read more here.


'WE DON'T NEED YOU': Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei said on Monday that its business is expanding, despite pressure from the U.S.

Huawei in its first publicly released quarterly earnings report said revenue for the first three months of 2019 rose to $26.8 billion, 39 percent higher than the same period last year. The company added that its net profit margin increased 8 percent from the first quarter of 2018.

The Chinese consumer electronics manufacturer also said it shipped 59 million phones in the first quarter and predicted that 2019 "will be a year of large-scale deployment of 5G around the world" and the company will see "unprecedented opportunities for growth."

The U.S. frames the company as a national security threat, alleging that its technology can be accessed by Chinese intelligence, and urges other countries to institute a ban on its products.

Just last week, the CIA reportedly accused Huawei of being backed by China's state security apparatus.

Huawei has denied that its phones and devices can be accessed by Chinese intelligence services or used to spy on consumers in other countries.

The company is currently engaged in a lawsuit over the U.S. government's ban on its products.

Read more here.


GOODBYE, LIQUOR STORES?: Amazon is hiring a lobbyist to help with policy issues related to buying and selling alcohol, according to a post on the company's jobs website.

The post is for a manager of public policy to help lead the company's state and local engagement and policy efforts related to alcohol regulation. The position would be based in Washington, D.C., and report to the director of U.S. public policy at the tech giant.

The job posting calls it a "highly visible position."

"The Manager will assess and communicate potential administration activities back to the business and the public policy team, develop mitigation or enhancement strategies and positions, and manage and coordinate external advocacy efforts, outreach programs, and key initiatives in concert with business objectives," the post reads.

The position also involves managing consultants, trade associations and coalitions, to help advocate for the company's legislative and regulatory priorities.

At least eight years of public policy experience, including lobbying or commensurate government experience, is required.

Read more here.


BOOM? Tesla is looking into a possible explosion of one of its vehicles in China, the company said Monday.

A video circulating on social media in China shows what appears to be a parked Tesla vehicle bursting into flames in Shanghai, CNN reported Monday. The video appeared to show a Tesla Model S sedan, according to CNN.

Tesla told The Hill in a statement that it has sent a team to the site of the apparent explosion and that there were no injuries, but did not provide further details.

"We immediately sent a team onsite, and we're supporting local authorities to establish the facts. From what we know now, no one was harmed," a Tesla spokesperson said.

Read more here.


AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: The new AI competition is over norms.





Two Google employees behind organizing walkout claim company retaliated. (Wired)

Samsung delaying launch of Galaxy Fold. (CNBC)

Zillow launches A.I. home buyer tool to boost virtual tours. (Venture Beat)

Hotspot app exposed passwords of two million Wi-Fi networks. (TechCrunch)

Here's how TurboTax just tricked you into paying to file your taxes. (ProPublica)