Hillicon Valley: Dems pounce on Trump fight with intel leaders | FBI taps new counterintelligence chief | T-Mobile, Sprint tap former FCC Dem commish to sell merger | Dem bill would crack down on robocalls | Family sues over Uber self-driving fatality

Hillicon Valley: Dems pounce on Trump fight with intel leaders | FBI taps new counterintelligence chief | T-Mobile, Sprint tap former FCC Dem commish to sell merger | Dem bill would crack down on robocalls | Family sues over Uber self-driving fatality
© Getty

Welcome to Hillicon Valley, The Hill's newsletter detailing all you need to know about the tech and cyber news from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley. If you don't already, be sure to sign up for our newsletter with this LINK.

Welcome! Follow the cyber team, Olivia Beavers (@olivia_beavers) and Jacqueline Thomsen (@jacq_thomsen), and the tech team, Harper Neidig (@hneidig) and Emily Birnbaum (@birnbaum_e).

 

'TRUST US': Democrats are seizing on President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats' CNN town halls exposed an extreme agenda Buttigieg says he doubts Sanders can win general election Post-Mueller, Trump has a good story to tell for 2020 MORE's latest feud with his intelligence chiefs to cast themselves as the party that is taking national security more seriously.

Trump called his intelligence leaders "passive and naive" on Friday after reading media reports about their testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

ADVERTISEMENT

CIA Director Gina Haspel and Director of National Intelligence Dan CoatsDaniel (Dan) Ray CoatsJordan, Meadows press intelligence chief on House Intel Russia probe transcripts Overnight Energy: John Kerry hits Trump over climate change at hearing | Defends Ocasio-Cortez from GOP attacks | Dems grill EPA chief over auto emissions rollback plan Kerry goes after Trump over climate on Capitol Hill MORE contradicted or at least differed with Trump on a number of issues, including over the threat from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Iran's nuclear activities and Russia. Trump later made up with the officials, who he said told him they had been misquoted by the media.

The episode, which wasn't the first time Trump has clashed with intelligence officials, buttressed Democratic arguments that they should be a check on Trump's use of foreign policy now that they have the majority in the House.

"What I worry about is if the president is going to so obviously and plainly and publicly disavow his own intelligence agencies, then if there is a real crisis who is going to believe the president?" said Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffOn The Money: Treasury misses second Dem deadline on Trump tax returns | Waters renews calls for impeachment | Dem wants Fed pick to apologize for calling Ohio cities 'armpits of America' | Stocks reach record high after long recovery On The Money: Cain withdraws from Fed consideration | Says he didn't want 'pay cut' | Trump sues to block subpoena for financial records | Dems plot next move in Trump tax-return battle Pelosi downplays impeachment post-Mueller report MORE (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

After Trump's comments, Democrats are talking about funding areas of security that they think should be priorities -- and that match up with the remarks from the intelligence officials, including doubts about North Korea's willingness to give up its nuclear arsenal while warning of the continued threat from ISIS.

Not mentioned? The crisis at the border, which Trump has repeatedly painted as a huge national security crisis.

"We can fund where the threats really are, not where he tells us the threats are," Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellJulián Castro: Trump should be impeached for trying to obstruct justice 'in very concrete ways' Swalwell on impeachment: 'We're on that road' after Mueller report The Hill's Morning Report - Dem candidates sell policy as smart politics MORE (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told The Hill.

Read more here.

 

FBI SCOOP: John Brown, a special agent in charge of the FBI's San Diego Field Office, has been tapped for the organization's top counterintelligence position.

Brown will replace Bill Priestap, who served as assistant director of the FBI's counterintelligence division, sources familiar with the matter told The Hill.

An FBI official confirmed to The Hill that Brown has been appointed to serve as the assistant director, noting that the bureau has not publicly announced it.

Priestap, who has 20 years of service to the FBI, was the last top official to have a role overseeing investigations into both Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDavis: The shocking fact that Mueller never would have accused Trump of a crime Trump says he would challenge impeachment in Supreme Court The Hill's Morning Report - Will Joe Biden's unifying strategy work? MORE and the Trump campaign.

Brown, an army veteran who joined the FBI as a special agent in 1999, has focused on counterintelligence, counterterrorism and cyber crime cases throughout his career, according to his FBI biography page.

More on Brown here.

 

T-MOBILE-SPRINT ADDS TO MERGER FIREPOWER: Mignon Clyburn, a former Democratic commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), is advising T-Mobile and Sprint on their proposed $26 billion merger as the two companies seek regulatory approval from her former agency.

In a phone interview with The Hill, Clyburn said she sees the work as a continuation of her efforts in government to expand internet access to hard-to-reach and overlooked communities.

"I'm advising T-Mobile-Sprint as it seeks to accelerate the creation of an inclusive, nationwide 5G network on how to best to build a bridge across the digital divide that currently exists in our country," she said. "Affordable broadband access for me is a critical priority, particularly for those Americans who are underserved or who currently have no viable options at this time."

Politico first reported the news on Monday.

Many Democrats have come out against the merger, which would reduce the number of major nationwide wireless carriers from four to three. Executives from both companies plan to testify next week before a joint hearing of the House Judiciary and Energy and Commerce committees after Democratic lawmakers had increasingly voiced concern about how the consolidation would affect consumers.

More here.

 

SELF-DRIVING LAWSUIT: The family of a woman who died last year after being hit by a self-driving Uber car has sued the city of Tempe, Ariz., where the woman, Elaine Herzberg, was killed.

The $10 million claim against Tempe accuses the city of creating a dangerous situation by having a median where pedestrians are not supposed to cross, according to USA Today. Herzberg was walking across the street at that spot when she was struck by the Uber vehicle.

The accident was the first incident in the U.S. of a self-driving car hitting a pedestrian and causing a death, according to USA Today.

It was later revealed that the driver in the Uber was watching the show "The Voice" on Hulu at the time of the incident. The vehicle had been placed in self-driving mode.

Following the accident, Uber suspended all of its self-driving car testing on public roads. The company later returned the self-driving cars to the road for testing in Pittsburgh.

More on the lawsuit here.

 

SEASICK: The Russian Navy reportedly has a new weapon that can disrupt the eyesight of targets as well as make them hallucinate and vomit.

Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported that a Russian military contractor has installed the weapon on two Russian warships.

The weapon fires a beam similar to a strobe light that affects the target's eyesight, making it more difficult for them to aim at night. During testing, volunteers reportedly used rifles and guns to shoot targets that were protected by the weapon. The volunteers reported having trouble aiming because they couldn't see.

Additionally, about half of the volunteers said they felt dizzy, nauseous and disoriented. About 20 percent of the volunteers reported experiencing hallucinations.

The weapon, called the Filin, has reportedly been installed on the Admiral Gorshkov and Admiral Kasatonov, two Russian warships. The weapon is expected to be installed on more ships that are currently being built.

The weapon was developed by Ruselectornics, a Russian state-owned developer of electronics and other technologies.

Read more here

 

#NIELSENWATCH: Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenNielsen was warned not to talk to Trump about new Russian election interference: report DHS head: Separating migrant families 'not on the table' Trump moves to crack down on visa overstays MORE will testify before a congressional committee early next month.

Rep. Mike RogersMichael (Mike) Dennis RogersTop Armed Services Republican: 'I don't think anybody is satisfied' with Space Force proposal Lawmakers press tech companies on efforts to combat extremism online Space bureaucracy should not slow America down against competitors MORE (R-Ala.), the ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement that Nielsen will appear before the committee on March 6.

The announcement comes after the committee's chairman, Rep. Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonDe Blasio vows to take Trump to court over sanctuary city proposal The Hill's Morning Report - Waiting on Mueller: Answers come on Thursday Dems rally behind Omar as Trump escalates attacks MORE (D-Miss.), was highly critical of Nielsen for not agreeing to testify before the committee earlier and floated the idea of issuing a subpoena for her appearance.

"The administration's plans about the future of border security are vitally important and the American public deserves to hear about these plans from Secretary Nielsen herself," Rogers said in a statement Monday.

"Chairman Thompson's decision to cooperate with Secretary Nielsen to find a time for her to testify was the right one and is consistent with the committee's constitutional mandate to conduct oversight over [the Department of Homeland Security]," he continued.

Thompson later confirmed the secretary's appearance in a statement to The Hill, saying that the committee is "giving the secretary ample time to prepare for this appearance." 

Read more here.

 

ROPING IN ROBOCALLS: Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneAnti-smoking advocates question industry motives for backing higher purchasing age Overnight Health Care: DOJ charges doctors over illegal opioid prescriptions | Cummings accuses GOP of obstructing drug pricing probe | Sanders courts Republican voters with 'Medicare for All' | Dems probe funding of anti-abortion group House Democrats probe Trump administration's funding of anti-abortion group MORE (D-N.J.) on Monday reintroduced a bill cracking down on "abusive" robocall practices, reviving the efforts from the last Congress to protect Americans from an increasing deluge of automated calls.

Pallone, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is reviving the Stopping Bad Robocalls Act, which would give the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) increased authority to combat robocalls. Pallone in a statement pointed to reports that 26.3 billion robocalls were placed in the U.S. in 2018, a 46 percent increase from the year before.

"Americans are fed up with robocalls," Pallone said in the statement. "It is incredibly annoying to repeatedly get unwanted calls from people you don't know and don't want to talk to. Despite previous efforts like the Do Not Call Registry, robocalls are still on the rise."

The bill would allow consumers to opt out of robocalls at any point, ban more kinds of robocalls, require all calls to have caller ID information before they can be put through and lengthen the statute of limitations from one to four years when it comes to punishing those who violate robocall prohibitions.

Sens. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneTelehealth is calling — will Congress pick up? GOP grows tired of being blindsided by Trump Hillicon Valley: Assange faces US charges after arrest | Trump says WikiLeaks 'not my thing' | Uber officially files to go public | Bezos challenges retail rivals on wages | Kremlin tightens its control over internet MORE (R-S.D.) and Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyThe Hill's Morning Report - Will Joe Biden's unifying strategy work? DHS plan for face scanning at airports sparks alarm Amazon hiring alcohol lobbyist MORE (D-Mass.) at the end of 2018 introduced the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act, which would levy a hefty fine on illegal robocalls and try to prevent them from reaching consumers in the first place. The TRACED Act was referred to the Senate Commerce Committee in January.

"The robocalls problem is out of control and, without action from Congress, will only get worse," Margot Saunders, senior counsel at the National Consumer Law Center, said in a statement shared by Pallone's office.

Read more on the proposed crackdown here.

 

FCC SHOWDOWN: House Democrats are asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for documentation about its operations as they prepare to challenge the agency with their newfound oversight powers.

Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Mike DoyleMichael (Mike) F. DoyleHouse votes to reinstate Obama-era net neutrality rules House panel approves bill reinstating net neutrality rules House Dems plan April vote on net neutrality bill MORE (D-Pa.), who leads the panel's subcommittee on technology, sent a letter on Monday to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai with extensive requests for documents about the agency's efforts during the Trump administration.

Frustrated by House Republicans' unwillingness to challenge the FCC over the past two years, Pallone and Doyle have vowed to hold the agency accountable and confront its leadership over issues like its repeal of the popular 2015 net neutrality rules.

"Under your leadership, the FCC has failed repeatedly to act in the public interest and placed the interest of corporations over consumers," the two Democrats wrote in their letter to Pai.

Read more here.

 

SENSITIVITY SCREENS: Instagram this week will launch "sensitivity screens" to blur out images of self-harm posted to the platform, a move that comes a month after a British family claimed their daughter killed herself after viewing images of self-harm on Instagram and Pinterest.

The father of Molly Russell, a 14-year-old British girl who killed herself in January, told multiple media outlets including The Sun that he blamed Instagram in part for her death. He told The Sun that her social media platforms were full of graphic images of cutting and self-harm.

Instagram's head of product Adam Mosseri in an op-ed for The Telegraph wrote that Russell's death spurred the company last week to launch an internal review of its ability to protect young people from harmful images.

"We are not yet where we need to be on the issues of suicide and self-harm," Mosseri wrote, following sharp criticism in the U.K., including by the British health secretary, over Russell's death. 

Some critics have pointed out that Instagram's algorithms guide users through related images and accounts – so if users "like" or interact with one post displaying suicidal or violent content, Instagram will guide them to others.

Mosseri said this is one of the challenges a team of "engineers and trained content reviewers" are working to address.

"We have engineers and trained content reviewers working around the clock to make it harder for people to find self-harm images," Mosseri wrote. "We have put in place measures to stop recommending related images, hashtags, accounts, and typeahead suggestions."

He then pointed to the "sensitivity screens" as an example of Instagram's efforts to weed out triggering content. The "sensitivity screens" will block posts reviewed by Instagram that contain cutting self-harm imagery.

Instagram did not respond to The Hill's request for more information on how the self-harm images will be flagged as requiring a "sensitivity screen."

More here.

 

SLACK GOING PUBLIC: Messaging company Slack Technologies Inc. announced Monday that it has confidentially filed documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to go public.

The workplace communication giant, founded in 2013, was valued at $7 billion last year and now has more than 10 million daily active users.

PitchBook estimates that the company has raised roughly $1.2 billion in capital, and Reuters reported Monday that Slack is aiming for a valuation in excess of $10 billion in the listing.

Airbnb, Lyft and Uber are also expected to go public this year.

It is unclear if Slack's application will be approved by the SEC before Feb. 15, when current funding for the agency is slated to expire.

Read more here.

 

A LIGHTER CLICK: One of our favorite Instant Pot recipes.

 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB:

How Silicon Valley puts the 'con' in consent. (The New York Times)

Verizon Super Bowl ad honors first responders after wildfire throttling scandal. (The Verge) 

Crypto exchange says it can't repay $190 million to clients after founder dies with only password. (Gizmodo)

Huawei sting offers rare glimpse of the U.S. targeting a Chinese giant. (Bloomberg)