Overnight Technology

OVERNIGHT TECH: Groups cheer as FOIA update heads to House

THE LEDE: An update to the Freedom of Information Act squeezed through the Senate on Monday in a surprise move that sets up legislative action in the House.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) had placed a secret hold on the legislation, out of concerns that it would be too much of a burden for enforcement agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission. His decision to lift that hold with just hours to go before procedural rules could have killed the bill on Monday elicited cheers from transparency advocates who have fought vigorously for the FOIA Improvement Act.

{mosads}”Despite resistance from some in the bureaucracy and political gamesmanship in the Senate, the American public’s desire for greater transparency allowed our senators to cross the aisle to pass historic FOIA reform,” said Dan Epstein, executive director of Cause of Action. “Cause of Action celebrates the passage of the FOIA Improvement Act because it will make our government more accountable and transparent for the public it serves.”

Bill author Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) obtained unanimous consent for the bill in a surprise appearance on the Senate floor late on Monday afternoon. “We often talk about the need for government transparency, and many also note how rare it is that Democrats and Republicans can come together on any legislation,” he said. “Today, we can accomplish both of those things but time is running out.”

The bill would make permanent an executive order from President Obama that federal agencies adopt a “presumption of openness” toward record requests. It would also limit a FOIA exemption that agencies use to keep internal deliberations secret, mandating that documents could only stay secret under that provision for 25 years.

“With the Senate’s action today, it is critical the House take up and pass the FOIA Improvement Act this week so it can be enacted this year,” Leahy and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the other author of the bill, said in a joint statement.

Booker, King team up for net neutrality push: Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Angus King (I-Maine) penned an op-ed calling for the Federal Communications Commission to reclassify broadband Internet as a public utility, arguing the “future of our democracy and economy depend on it.” They pointed to endorsements along the political spectrum from President Obama to conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in a 2005 opinion. Both senators have previously supported the reclassification under Title II of the Telecommunications Act.

“Any approach that stops short of reclassifying broadband under Title II will not allow the FCC to adopt the rules we need today to protect customers and businesses, and will result in high social and economic costs,” they wrote on CNN’s website.

New general counsel at Verizon: Verizon announced Monday that its new general counsel will be Craig Silliman, who currently serves as a vice president in charge of public policy. Silliman will lead the company’s departments in public policy, government affairs, regulation, security and legal matters. He is replacing Randal Milch, who will become a “strategic policy adviser” to the company’s chairman and CEO Lowell McAdam.

Uber banned in New Delhi after rape allegation: Uber has been banned from New Delhi, after a female passenger claimed she was raped by one of the ride company’s drivers. The announcement from the Indian city’s transportation office is a major headache for Uber, which has struggled to respond to incidents in which passengers were abducted or attacked.

Pritzker highlights tech benefits of immigration order: Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker on Monday touted the economic benefits of President Obama’s executive action on immigration in an op-ed in USA Today. Pritzker homed in on a number of changes aimed at immigrants working in high-tech fields. They include creating more flexibility for high-skilled workers to change jobs, while also extending a training program that allows foreign-born STEM graduates to work in the country for more than two years after graduation. Not all tech advocates were completely satisfied that the reforms went far enough.

“Policy changes to encourage more innovation are among the most promising improvements facing American businesses and start-ups as a result of immigration reform,” she wrote. ” It is no secret that our country is suffering from a shortage of workers in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.”



Bloomberg is hosting a daylong conference on cybersecurity featuring a number of officials from the Justice Department. At 2:30 p.m., White House advisor Lisa Monaco will be interviewed.

The National Consumers League is holding a briefing on data security policy at noon.

At the same time, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella will discuss ways that the government can take advantage of the cloud.



The government’s bulk collection of Americans’ call records was brought before a U.S. appeals court for the third time in as many months on Monday.

More than three quarters of Internet users believe online access has made them “better informed” on a range of issues from international news to pop culture.

The Obama administration announced on Monday that it has renewed a controversial spying program that would have been ended under legislation that was blocked by a Senate filibuster.

North Korea has denied that it was behind a massive hack at Sony Pictures, which is set to release a comedy about a CIA plot to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Some of the nation’s largest school districts have promised to offer computer science courses in their schools, the White House announced Monday.


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

Follow us on Twitter: @HilliconValley@jmhattem

Tags Angus King Freedom of Information Act Jay Rockefeller John Cornyn Net neutrality NSA Patrick Leahy Penny Pritzker
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