OVERNIGHT TECH: Arguments on tap for surveillance case

THE LEDE: The legality of national security letters issued by the government is slated for debate Wednesday during oral arguments in front of a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. 

An undisclosed telecommunications company sued the Justice Department in 2011, arguing the letters, which require companies to turn over some customer information without a court order, are unconstitutional. Federal Judge Susan Illston agreed in a 2013 ruling. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is representing the undisclosed client, which will not be revealed at Wednesday's hearing. The group has called the case groundbreaking, while others have speculated it could reach the Supreme Court. 


"Months before Edward Snowden kicked off the international debate over electronic surveillance, EFF scored a major victory when a federal judge ordered the FBI to cease its practice of issuing NSLs—demands to telecommunication providers to provide information about their users that are not approved in advance by a judge," the group said in a statement. 

The lower court judge ruled last year that the company’s First Amendment rights were breached with a gag order, which forbids companies from revealing that they received the letters. She stayed her opinion to give time for the government to appeal. The three judges assigned to the case are Sandra Ikuta, N. Randy Smith, and Mary Murguia. Ikuta and Smith were both appointed by former President George W. Bush. Murguia was appointed by President Obama. The proceedings will be livestreamed by the court.

Seperately, Twitter filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department on Tuesday, claiming the restrictions on what it can disclose about federal searches violate the First Amendment. Companies are not allowed to disclose the exact number of government demands about user information they receive as either Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) orders or national security letters. They can disclose only the broad number of requests they receive, in ranges of 1,000.

“Earlier this year, the government addressed similar concerns raised in a lawsuit brought by several major tech companies," DOJ spokesperson Emily Pierce said in a statement. "There, the parties worked collaboratively to allow tech companies to provide broad information government requests while also protecting national security.”

Amazon before Supreme Court: Amazon is at the center of a case before the Supreme Court on Wednesday dealing with a labor battle with warehouse workers who want compensation for time spent standing in screening lines following their shifts. The case has broad implications for litigation for the online retailer and others, with more than a dozen class-action suits around the country already filed that could require hundreds of millions of dollars in back pay if the court sides with the workers. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals previously sided with two Nevada workers who made claims for back pay after being forced to wait up to 25 minutes in screening lines to ensure they did not steal anything at the warehouses. Integrity Staffing Solutions, the contract firm hired by Amazon to supply workers and the warehouse, is named as the chief petitioner on the case. But Amazon, Apple, CVS and other companies have been named in other suits around the country. 

BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerDemocrats eager to fill power vacuum after Pelosi exit Stopping the next insurrection Biden, lawmakers mourn Harry Reid MORE heads to Facebook: House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerDemocrats eager to fill power vacuum after Pelosi exit Stopping the next insurrection Biden, lawmakers mourn Harry Reid MORE (R-Ohio) stopped by Facebook’s headquarters on Tuesday, as part of his swing through California to help out Republicans. He wanted to learn how campaign and public officials can use Facebook to connect with their constituents and also took a peek at the social media giant’s Internet.org project — which aims to connect people across the globe to the Internet — and Oculus VR — the virtual reality company Facebook bought earlier this year. 

Blue LED inventors win Nobel Prize: Three scientists won the Nobel Prize in Physics for developing the blue LED, which the Nobel Committee called “a new energy-efficient and environment-friendly light source.” One of the scientists — University of California, Santa Barbara, professor Shuji Nakamura — is American. The other two — Isamu Akasaki and Hiroshi Amano — are Japanese.

Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.), whose district includes UCSB, said she was “so proud” of Nakamura’s work, “which shows once again that UCSB is a premier university at the cutting edge of groundbreaking research.” “I congratulate Dr. Nakamura and his counterparts at Nagoya University in Japan, and look forward to seeing where his invention and innovation leads our society,” she said in a statement. 

Wyden to talk spying with tech execs: Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSanders, 50 Democrats unveil bill to send N95 masks to all Americans Manchin told White House he would back version of billionaire tax: report Democrats look to scale back Biden bill to get it passed MORE (D-Ore.) will sit down with top executives from Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Dropbox and Greylock Partners on Wednesday to talk about how surveillance hurts the digital economy. Wyden is both a strong critic of government surveillance programs and the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, so Wednesday’s forum could be a prime opportunity for him to meld the two interests.

The session will take place in the gymnasium of Wyden’s old high school in Palo Alto, Calif., where he once played basketball as a teenager.

Tech think tank takes trade stance: The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation in releasing a new report shaming foreign countries for their mercantilist trade policies. Instead of arguing about protectionism versus free trade, the tech-focused think tank argues that ramping up enforcement against mercantilist policies is “the most important step the U.S. government can take to save the soul of the global trading system.” China and India are at the top of the list of the most mercantilist countries.

“The United States needs to get far more serious about confronting innovation mercantilism’s threat to global economic development,” the think tank said in its report. “The United States has a unique opportunity to step in and set the standard for not only how we analyze and synthesize data on mercantilism, but also how we choose to enforce and punish it. We cannot waste this opportunity.”

TechNet bulks up: TechNet added Caroline Joiner to lead its Texas and southeast arm. The trade group said on Tuesday that the former consultant and Commerce Department official would help focus on the increasing importance of “innovation hubs” around the country.  

Brother joints ITI: The Information Technology Industry Council added electronic product company Brother International as its 59th member company on Tuesday. 



The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation is unleashing a new report on mercantilist economic policies at 9 a.m.

Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) is slated to give the keynote address at an Atlantic Council event on the future of voting, which starts at 9 a.m.

The Supreme Court hears arguments in the case about Amazon employees starting at 10 a.m.

Internet entrepreneur Jeff Pulver is speaking at the American Enterprise Institute at noon.

That same time, the circuit court will sit down to hear the national security letter case in San Francisco. 

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) meets with tech executives in California at 2 p.m. Eastern.



Becoming the U.S.’s new chief technology officer was a “no brainer” for Megan Smith, she said. 

The Justice Department is reviewing the actions of a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) official who created a phony Facebook page in the name of a woman who had been arrested for her suspected involvement in a drug ring.

Dozens of civil liberties groups are calling on Congress not to stop short in reforming the National Security Agency.

The National Security Agency on Tuesday released a report attempting to outline the privacy and civil liberty protections that go into its collection of information. 

Jennifer Lawrence wants lawmakers to do something to fight the hackers who stole her nude pictures.


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