Overnight Technology

OVERNIGHT TECH: NSA reform coming down to the wire

THE LEDE: With just hours until senators cast a key procedural vote on reforming the National Security Agency (NSA), many lawmakers do not know how they will vote.

“I’ll be honest with you, we’re looking at that now to really see what’s in it,” Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) told The Hill. “I haven’t made any decision.”

{mosads}Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who has previously criticized the USA Freedom Act, said that he had not “looked at the bill lately” and did not have a firm position. “Ask me again tomorrow,” he added.

Multiple other congressional offices either did not respond or declined to offer their boss’s position when reached by The Hill on Monday, though a few Republicans signaled their strong opposition to a vote this week. Sen. Dan Coats’s (R-Ind.) spokesman said the lawmaker “strongly opposes” the bill. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is upset that the bill did not go through regular order in the committee, an aide said. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters he opposed the bill and wanted to start over next year. 

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has long maintained there are problems with the bill, yet on Monday told reporters that she is “not necessarily” against it, which could set the stage for legislative horse-trading once the bill reaches the floor.

The uncertainty surrounding the bill is partly due to timing, one tech industry lobbyist working to get the bill passed told The Hill, and could also be due to the fact that the measure has largely been overshadowed of late by the congressional fight over the Keystone XL pipeline, among other issues.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced the new bill just days before lawmakers left Washington for the August recess. That recess and the weeks that Congress was out of town around the midterm elections meant that many rank and file lawmakers did not get a good look at the bill until just last week.

“Even then, I’m not sure that staff had this at the top of their list to brief their boss on until we got the word last week that [Majority Leader Harry] Reid [D-Nev.] had filed for cloture,” the lobbyist said. Many may just be looking at it now for the first time, the lobbyist speculated. 

Chamber to examine 2015 intellectual property agenda: The Chamber of Commerce is holding its second annual global intellectual property summit on Tuesday to talk about what’s coming next year on Capitol Hill and in the Obama administration. House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), acting Patent Office head Michelle Lee, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Robert Holleyman are all scheduled to speak. At the end of the day, attendees will hear from members of rock band Collective Soul, who will also play an acoustic set.

“It’s going to be a big day,” said Mark Elliot, executive vice president of the Chamber’s global intellectual property center. He predicted that Congress’s attempts to reform the nation’s patent laws, protection of trade secrets, the looming trade deal with Asia and reform of the Patent and Trademark Office will all come up for discussion.

FCC’s O’Rielly gets new chief of staff: Federal Communications Commission (FCC) member Mike O’Rielly is hiring Sen. Tim Scott’s (R-S.C.) legal advisor as his new chief of staff and legal aide. Assuming all the clearances and hiring procedures are approved, Robin Colwell should start at the commission on Dec. 15.

“I have known Ms. Colwell for over a decade and have valued her knowledge of communications issues and optimistic approach to complex matters,” O’Rielly, — a former Senate aide himself — said in a statement. “Robin’s expertise in Capitol Hill policies and politics will be an immense asset to me at the Commission.”

Expect rewrite, oversight with GOP Congress: O’Rielly predicted many more oversight hearings and a rewrite of the 1996 Telecommunications Act now that Republicans will control both chambers in the new Congress. O’Rielly said he expects “considerable time” will be spent modifying the 1996 law. He noted that the last telecom update also happened with a Republican Congress and Democratic president. In terms of oversight, the Senate’s “deference provided to this administration is probably a thing of the past,” he said in prepared remarks in front of the Chamber of Commerce.

Court gives another victory to musicians in online radio fight: A federal judge in New York handed down a victory to musicians trying to get royalties for old songs on Friday. The district court judge rejected a motion from Sirius XM to dismiss the lawsuit from members of the Turtles — a musical act best known for the hit “Happy Together — arguing that they ought to be paid royalties for songs recorded before 1972.

The ruling is another victory for musicians trying to force digital radio companies like Sirius XM to pay performance royalties for songs recorded before 1972. Current federal law is silent on the issue, but many states have laws on the books extending royalty rights.

Former Reid, Gore aide heads to software group: A former press aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Vice President Al Gore is the new head of global communications for BSA | The Software Alliance. Nathan Naylor will oversee the software trade group’s worldwide messaging, the organization announced.

Finding election law loopholes with Twitter: A number of Republican outside groups shared internal polling with each other during the 2014 election using dummy Twitter accounts, according to CNN. The accounts, one of which was named after a character from “The West Wing,” were public but would have been hard to decipher unless people knew what they were looking for. Rules governing campaign finance are murky, and some campaign finance watchdogs said the move seemed aim at avoiding rules barring outside groups from coordinating with campaigns. CNN reported that American Crossroads, American Action Network and the National Republican Congressional Committee all had access to the information.

Senate Judiciary postpones sports blackout hearing: The Senate Judiciary Committee has postponed its meeting on a bill seeking to stop sports blackouts. The hearing was originally scheduled to Wednesday but has been delayed until further notice.

FTC privacy settlement: A company involved in consumer privacy settled with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Monday after it was accused of deceiving customers. The company TRUSTe evaluates and provides certifications to companies to ensure they are in compliance with online privacy laws. The company advertises that it provides re-certification to the companies it evaluates every year. But the FTC alleges TRUSTe did not actually do so more than 1,000 times in a seven-year period. The FTC also alleges the company has failed to require companies using its seal to note that it is a for-profit company. The company gave up its non-profit status in 2008 and many users of the seal still tout it as a non-profit. The company must pay $200,000 and is prohibited from making misleading statements about the certification process.



House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) will be among the speakers Tuesday at a summit sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce about intellectual property.

At 11:30, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Sen.-elect Steve Daines (R-Mont.) will hold a press conference expressing their opposition to the Marketplace Fairness Act, which would authorize states to collect online sales taxes on purchases from retailers located outside the state.

At 1:30 p.m., two House committees — Oversight and Judiciary — will hold a joint hearing on the “Abuse of the [U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s] telework program.”

NFL Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk joins Reps. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.) and Lou Barletta (R-Pa.) to talk about big data and sports on Capitol Hill at 2:30. 



The Federal Communications Commission is calling for higher fees on phone users to help raise an additional $1.5 billion to provide Internet connections for schools and libraries.

The State Department on Monday said it believes hacking “incidents” on its computer network and that of the White House are related.

Some of the nation’s largest technology companies are urging the Senate to pass legislation to end the National Security Agency’s most controversial program.

The White House “strongly supports” the surveillance reform bill headed to the Senate on Tuesday, it said on Monday.

The federal government should unveil new procedures for the “no-fly” terrorist watch list in coming months, Justice Department lawyers said on Friday.


Please send tips and comments to Julian Hattem, jhattem@thehill.com and Mario Trujillo, mtrujillo@thehill.com

Follow us on Twitter: @HilliconValley, @jmhattem

Tags Al Gore Bob Goodlatte Chris Coons Dan Coats Dianne Feinstein Harry Reid Jim Gerlach John Boozman John McCain Lindsey Graham Lou Barletta National Security Agency Orrin Hatch Patrick Leahy Ted Cruz Tim Scott U.S. Chamber of Commerce USA Freedom Act

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