Overnight Technology

OVERNIGHT TECH: House panel advances surveillance reform

THE LEDE: The House appears to be moving towards quick passage of the USA Freedom Act, after the surveillance reform bill cleared the Judiciary Committee in a 25-2 on Thursday.

Committee leaders had the tacit support of House leadership as well as heads of the Intelligence Committee, they said during Thursday’s markup. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) seemed to give an extra boost to the bill’s backers, calling it “a very good package.” “Of course, it’s not everything that I want, but I think it’s a solid agreement that basically reflects the bill that passed the House last year with nearly 300 votes,” Boehner added during his weekly press conference, referring to last year’s vote on similar legislation. “I know there’ve been several changes, but it’s essentially the bill we passed, again, with almost 300 votes last year.”

{mosads}That should point to a quick consideration in the House. After Thursday’s vote, Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said he was “hopeful that it will come to the floor as soon as we get back from the district work period” next week. Other backers of the legislation were quick to applaud Thursday’s vote, though many suggested that it should be seen as merely the first blow against the National Security Agency (NSA).

Still, challenges do loom. Thursday’s vote put on full display the limits for NSA critics. Practically every lawmaker on the panel expressed support for an amendment from Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) that would address searches under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act and also ban “backdoors” into technological devices, yet it still fell short of adoption. Lawmakers in both parties said they had been specifically told that the amendment would sink the bill’s chances of making it to the floor, blaming both House leadership and Republican heads of the Intelligence Committee.

The Senate is also still a question mark. While Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and others have cosponsored their own version of the USA Freedom Act, it doesn’t appear to be immediately headed for a committee markup. The “clean” reauthorization from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.), meanwhile, doesn’t seem to stand any chance in the House, if it were to come to that.

PATENT BILL MARKUP COMING ‘SOONISH’: The House Judiciary Committee will mark up Chairman Goodlatte’s Innovation Act “soonish,” he said on Thursday. Goodlatte told reporters that he was heartened by the Senate’s action this week and seemed optimistic that a deal could be hammered out in the relatively near future. “I think there is substantial progress that has been made in the Senate since the last Congress” when a bill easily passed the House but stalled in the Senate, he said. Goodlatte declined to talk about specific differences, but said his panel was “still studying” the Senate’s PATENT Act. “We look forward to working with them as we move forward but we’ve made no decisions about differences that exist between the House bill and the Senate bill,” he said. “There are many similarities but there are also many differences.”

‘IF THEY ENACT IT, WE’LL DO IT’: FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said the commission would update rules to bring more disclosure requirements to political television ads if Congress tells it to. When asked if the commission would consider making the move on its own, Wheeler did not comment and lifted his hands above his head.

“I heard his discussion today,” Wheeler said of Rep. John Yarmuth’s (D-Ky.) bill, which would have the FCC update rules to require Super-PACs to air the names of their major backers. “If they enact it, we’ll do it.”

WALDEN OK WITH DEM TRANSPARENCY IDEAS: Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said during an Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing that a trio of draft Democratic bills on FCC process reform “make a lot of sense.” Republicans have proposed a number of stronger transparency reforms that Democrats and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler oppose. Instead of replacing the GOP bills with the Democratic proposals, Walden floated the idea of “incorporating them in or seeing what we can come together with.” Wheeler said the commission should finish its own internal process review by the end of August.

MEASURES FOR DEAF, BLIND ON TAP FOR FCC’S MAY AGENDA: The FCC will vote on a pair of proposals to help the deaf and blind during its May 21 open meeting, according to the commission’s agenda published Thursday. The first proposal would take steps to make emergency video information available to blind and deaf people on tablets, smartphones and laptops. The second vote would be on a proposal to make permanent a program that provides $10 million a year to “support programs that distribute communications equipment to low-income individuals who are deaf or blind.”

SMARTPHONE USERS INCREASINGLY USE PASSWORDS: The wireless industry released a poll Tuesday that found the use of PINs and passwords on smartphones has increased more than 20 percent in the last few years. CTIA-The Wireless Association commissioned a poll that found 61 percent of people who own smartphones use some type of password protection. Though not polled, the trade group cited its own consumer education as one potential reason for the increase.

OBAMA: MATH ISN’T JUST FOR BOYS: At the Anacostia Neighborhood Library in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, President Obama urged girls not to leave math and science to their boy classmates. “Particularly for the young ladies here, I want you guys to make sure that you look at math and science, because sometimes young women aren’t going into some of those areas like math and science as much, and they should,” he said. “It’s not because they don’t know how to do it; it’s because sometimes they’re discouraged, the idea being that somehow that’s traditionally more of a boy thing. And that’s something that we’ve got to get rid of.”



The last and final day of the #Hack4Congress event gets under way around 9 a.m. at Google’s Washington headquarters.

At 10 a.m., Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) will talk about “the digital economy and trade” during an NDN briefing on Capitol Hill.

At noon, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s Robert Litt will join a handful of privacy advocates and Reform Government Surveillance’s Jessica Herrera-Flanigan in a Capitol Hill discussion about extending the Patriot Act. The session is being put on by the Advisory Committee to the Congressional Internet Caucus.



A House committee approved a major intelligence reform bill Thursday, setting the stage for a floor debate over U.S. spying.

The Democratic sponsor of a House bill to bring more transparency to campaign ads is pressing the FCC to act on its own if the legislation stalls.

The House Science Committee approved a two-year NASA policy bill on Thursday that aims to refocus the space agency away from studying the Earth, and instead force it out toward the stars.

Congress is waving the white flag about moving forward with more expansive intelligence reform.

The Federal Aviation Administration said Thursday that is has completed the installation of an automated system for tracking airplanes that are mid-flight.


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

Follow us on Twitter: @HilliconValley@jmhattem


Tags Bob Goodlatte Innovation Act USA Freedom Act
See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video