OVERNIGHT TECH: Conyers, Amash push to curtail Patriot Act

THE LEDE: An unlikely duo of a senior Democrat and young Tea Party Republican will introduce legislation on Friday aimed at reining in the government’s surveillance programs.

The LIBERT-E Act from Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Justin Amash (R-Mich.) would narrow the Patriot Act to limit the government’s spying powers.

“Vacuuming up details from the lives of ordinary Americans is not what Congress signed on to when it enacted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in the 1970s, or when it amended the law through the USA PATRIOT Act a decade ago,” the lawmakers wrote in a joint op-ed published in the Huffington Post and HotAir. “Many rank-and-file congressmen were shocked to learn that the law has been stretched to authorize such blanket surveillance.”

{mosads}Section 215 of the Patriot Act allows the government to seize business records if they are “relevant” to a terrorism investigation. News reports last week revealed that the National Security Agency and the FBI have been using that power to obtain the phone records of millions of people in the United States. The records include phone numbers, call times and call duration, but not the contents of the conversations.

The Conyers-Amash bill would require the government to show “specific and articulable” facts that the records are material to the investigation and “pertain only to individuals under such investigation.”

“By creating a tighter link between the data and the person under investigation, we can help prevent the indiscriminate surveillance of innocent Americans,” they wrote in their op-ed.

The bill would also require FISA courts to release significant opinions to the public.

“These issues are just too important to be handled behind closed doors,” Conyers and Amash wrote.

FCC moves on prison phone rates: The Federal Communications Commission will hold a workshop on July 10 to discuss the high rates that prison inmates and their families pay for phone calls.

The issue is a top priority for Acting FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn.

“All too often the price of a single phone call from an inmate eclipses the cost of basic monthly service, and this weighs heavily on the economically disadvantaged,” Clyburn said in a statement.

“We must do everything that we can to ensure a reasonable mechanism for families to stay in touch with loved ones. Some studies indicate that having meaningful contact beyond the prison walls can make a real difference in maintaining community ties, promoting rehabilitation and reducing recidivism,” she added. 

iTunes’s Cue defends Apple: Eddy Cue, the head of iTunes and content for Apple, rejected allegations that Apple had worked with top book publishers to drive up e-book prices when testifying before a federal court on Thursday, The Associated Press reports.

When asked if then-Apple CEO Steve Jobs knew that publishers might withhold newly released and bestseller books from Amazon if it didn’t raise its book prices to $14.99, like Apple, Cue said: “I believe so, sure. Smart guy.” However, Cue said Jobs was “indifferent” about how Amazon was affected by the negotiations that book publishers and Apple were having about its iBookstore, according to the AP.

Napolitano heads to New York to talk immigration: Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will travel to New York on Friday to talk about the need for immigration reform with business community leaders and other local officials there, a department spokesman said. Napolitano has been traveling across the country to press for immigration reform. Last month the secretary met with tech executives in San Francisco and Los Angeles to discuss immigration.


Energy secretary creates cybersecurity council: Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said he has created a cybersecurity council to bring together various Energy Department branches, a move that underscores increasing political and policy focus on cyber threats.

“What we are trying to do is to make sure that we bring all these assets together to look at everything from grid reliability and resilience to, frankly, protecting our own national security secrets,” Moniz told the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday.

Moran files startup-backed amendment to immigration bill: Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) has filed an amendment to the Senate’s sweeping immigration bill that is intended to make the United States a more attractive place for foreign entrepreneurs to stay and expand their businesses.

Moran’s amendment would supplement a measure in the immigration bill that creates visas for foreign entrepreneurs. It incorporates provisions from earlier legislation that Moran has offered in previous years on startup visas.

Administration’s phone surveillance broke the law, says Conyers: The top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee accused the Obama administration on Thursday of breaking the law by collecting the phone records of millions of Americans.

“It seems clear the government’s activity exceeds the authority this Congress has provided — both in letter and in spirit,” Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) said during a Judiciary Committee oversight hearing of the FBI.

Please send tips and comments to Brendan Sasso,, and Jennifer Martinez,

Follow Hillicon Valley on Twitter: @HilliconValley, @BrendanSasso, @JenMartinez

Tags Ernest Moniz Jerry Moran Justin Amash

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