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December 15, 2005, 8:00 AM ET, Alert No. 1,273.
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House Approves Conference Report on PATRIOT Act Extension Bill

12/14. The House approved the conference report on HR 3199, the "USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005", by a vote of 251-174. See, Roll Call No. 627. See, full text of the conference report [219 pages in PDF]. The Senate has yet to approve this conference report.

Much of the debate in the House focused on Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, which pertains to access to business records, including library records, under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

Rep. John ConyersRep. John Conyers (D-MI) (at right), the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee (HJC), was the Democratic floor manager. He said the the provisions in the conference report do not meet the concerns of the American Library Association (ALA). He said that the conference report is "a downward, backward movement in which the PATRIOT Act becomes meaner, less democratic".

Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), the Chairman of the HJC, and the Republican floor manager, responded, "I wish the Library Association had read it." He added that "I don't think we should make libraries off limits to an investigation" regarding terrorism.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), a senior member of the HJC, complained about the procedure being employed by the Republican leadership to enact this legislation. He called it "blackmail". He said that members could only vote for or against the bill. He said that Republicans are essentially saying "we will blackmail you". If you do not vote for the bill, the "there will be blood on your hands". He called for a three month extension, and a revision of the language regarding Sections 215 and 505 (national security letters).

While the voting correlated strongly with party affiliation, due in part to pressure from the Bush administration and Republican leaders, some members crossed party lines. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) voted against the conference report, and spoke against it on the floor. Rep. Sensenbrenner did not yield time to him. Rep. Conyers did. Rep. Rohrabacher argued that "we have opened the door to abuse". He said that expanded police powers will be use against the pro life movement.

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, also spoke of abuse of police powers. He said that he was spied on by the government when he was involved in the civil rights movement.

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) spoke in support of the conference report. He is a member of the HJC and its Crime Subcommittee. He was also active in the Crime Subcommittee long series of hearings on the PATRIOT Act earlier this year. He said that following these hearings, numerous amendments were added to HR 3199, including a relaxation of the national security letter (NSL) provision's gag rule, more reporting on use of NSLs, and a fixed time limit on delayed notice of search warrants.

Voting on approval of the conference report correlated with party affiliation. Republicans voted 207-18. Democrats voted 44-155.

The eighteen Republicans who voted against the bill (and the President and House Republican leadership) were Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), Bob Bishop (R-UT), John Duncan (R-TN), Vernon Ehlers (R-MI), Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Timothy Johnson (R-IL), Walter Jones (R-NC), Frank Lucas (R-OK), Connie Mack (R-FL), Don Manzullo (R-IL), Bob Ney (R-OH), Butch Otter (R-ID), Ron Paul (R-TX), Tom Price (R-GA), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), John Sweeney (R-NY), Charlie Taylor (R-NC), and Don Young (R-AK)

Many Democrats, and a few Republicans, first argued that the bill should be returned to the conference committee for further consideration. The House held a roll call vote on a motion to recommit the conference report. This failed on a vote of 202-224. See, Roll Call No. 626. Republicans voted 5-221. Democrats voted 196-3.

The Republicans who voted to recommit were Butch Otter (R-ID), Ron Paul (R-TX), Jim Leach (R-IA), Timothy Johnson (R-IL), and Christopher Shays (R-CT). The Democrats who voted against recommittal were Jerry Costello (D-IL), Chet Edwards (D-TX), and Jose Serrano (D-NY)

The Bush administration is actively and publicly advocating quick passage of the conference report. President Bush issued a statement after House approval of the conference report. He wrote that "The Patriot Act is essential to fighting the war on terror and preventing our enemies from striking America again. I commend the House for voting today on a bipartisan basis to reauthorize the Patriot Act."

He continued that "The legislation reauthorizes the 16 sunsetting provisions and makes all but two permanent. It bolsters the law's significant protection of privacy and civil liberties. The legislation includes important provisions regarding seaport security, mass transportation security, and terrorist financing. It creates a new National Security Division at the Department of Justice, which was an important recommendation of the WMD Commission that I support. It includes important provisions to strengthen Federal efforts to combat the dangerous proliferation of methamphetamine, which has affected communities across the Nation."

Bush concluded that "The Patriot Act is scheduled to expire at the end of the month, but the terrorist threat will not expire on that schedule. In the war on terror, we cannot afford to be without this law for a single moment. I urge the Senate to pass this legislation promptly and reauthorize the Patriot Act."

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales stated in a release that "The USA PATRIOT Act is an essential part of our Nation's efforts in the war against terrorism, and I commend the House of Representatives for deciding to renew these critical sections. Our number-one priority is protecting the American people from another terrorist attack, and today's bipartisan vote is an important step toward ensuring that the men and women of law enforcement continue to have the tools they need keep us safe. I strongly urge the Senate to act now."

Robert Kimmitt, Deputy Treasury Secretary, stated in a release on December 14 that "The USA PATRIOT Act is crucial to protecting our homeland and keeping Americans safe from the terrorists and criminals whose mission is to destroy the freedoms we hold dear. Not only has the Act better equipped our law-enforcement officials to investigate and take legal action against terrorists, but the Act has also strengthened our defenses against those who seek to abuse the U.S. financial system to bankroll terrorists' deadly agendas."

See also, December 14 release of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

GAO Reports on Trade with PR China

12/12. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report [75 pages in PDF] titled "China Trade: U.S. Exports, Investment, Affiliate Sales Rising, but Export Share Falling".

The report states that "While U.S.-China commercial relations have expanded in recent years, disagreements have also emerged over a wide variety of issues, including the size and growth of the U.S. trade deficit with China, China’s enforcement of intellectual property protection, and concerns over China’s implementation of its WTO obligations. Despite these challenges, China’s vast consumer and labor markets present considerable opportunities for U.S. exporters and investors." (Footnote omitted.)

The report finds that "China is a rapidly growing market for U.S. goods and services. Although still small, accounting for only 4 percent of U.S. goods exports in 2004, U.S. goods exports to China tripled, from $11 billion to $33 billion, and increased across virtually all major categories from 1995 to 2004."

However, it adds that "Despite rapid growth, U.S. goods exports to China have not kept pace with those of other countries, particularly exports from Asia. The U.S. share of world goods exports to China declined from 12 percent to 9 percent, from 1995 to 2004".

USTR Releases Annual Report on PR China's Violations of its WTO Obligations

12/12. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) released its report [101 pages in PDF] titled "2005 Report to Congress on China's WTO Compliance".

The report finds that "China has taken important steps in implementing the numerous commitments that it undertook upon its WTO accession on December 11, 2001", but that "China's implementation work is still incomplete".

The report states that "Many of the shortfalls in China’s WTO compliance efforts seem to stem from China’s incomplete transition from being a state-planned economy." That is, "it continued to use an array of industrial policy tools in 2005 to promote or protect favored sectors and industries, and these tools at times collide with China’s WTO obligations."

The report elaborates that examples of these industrial policies include "the telecommunications regulator’s interference in commercial negotiations over royalty payments to intellectual property rights holders in the area of 3G standards, the pursuit of unique national standards in many areas of high technology that could lead to the extraction of technology or intellectual property from foreign rights-holders, draft government procurement regulations mandating purchases of Chinese-produced software, ..."

Intellectual Property Rights. The report finds that "China has undertaken substantial efforts to implement its commitment to overhaul its legal regime to ensure the protection of intellectual property rights in accordance with the WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS Agreement). While the United States continues to work with China in some problem areas, China has done a relatively good job of overhauling its legal regime. However, China has been much less successful in enforcing its laws and regulations and ensuring the effective IPR enforcement required by the TRIPS Agreement. With most in U.S. industry reporting no significant reduction in IPR infringement levels in 2005, IPR enforcement remains problematic. Counterfeiting and piracy in China remain at epidemic levels and cause serious economic harm to U.S. businesses in virtually every sector of the economy."

The report also states that "In 2005, nearly four years after China’s accession to the WTO, U.S. rights-holders uniformly report that IPR infringement in China remains rampant. Indeed, some trade associations report that the situation confronting U.S. rights-holders in 2005 remains unchanged from 2004. Other trade associations report that the situation has actually worsened. U.S. rights-holders uniformly urge the Chinese government to accelerate its reforms in order to significantly reduce IPR infringement levels."

The report adds that "IPR infringement in China in 2005 continued to affect products, brands and technologies from a wide range of industries, including films, music, publishing, software, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, information technology, consumer goods, industrial goods, food products, medical devices, electrical equipment, automotive parts and clothing, among many others. This situation not only has had an enormous economic impact, but also presents a direct challenge to China’s ability to regulate many products that have health and safety implications for China’s population and, as an increasing amount of counterfeit and pirated products are being exported from China, for others around the world."

The report goes on to report on the ineffectiveness of administrative, criminal, and civil regimes in China for enforcement of intellectual property rights.

Telecommunications Services. The report states that "In the Services Schedule accompanying its WTO accession agreement, China committed to permit foreign suppliers to provide a broad range of telecommunications services through joint ventures with Chinese companies, including domestic and international wired services, mobile voice and data services, value-added services (such as electronic mail, voice mail and on-line information and database retrieval) and paging services." Also, it "accepted key principles from the WTO Reference Paper on regulatory principles. As a result, China became obligated to separate the regulatory and operating functions of MII (which had been both the telecommunications regulatory agency in China and the operator of China Telecom) upon its accession. China also became obligated to adopt pro competitive regulatory principles, such as cost-based pricing and the right of interconnection, which are necessary for foreign-invested joint ventures to compete with incumbent suppliers ..." (Parentheses in original.)

The report finds that "four years after its accession to the WTO, China has not yet established a truly independent regulator in the telecommunications sector. The current regulator, MII, while nominally separate from the current telecommunications operators, maintains extensive influence and control over their operations and continues to use its regulatory authority to disadvantage foreign firms."

The report also reviews problems associated with the MII's Catalogue of Telecommunications Services. The report states that "MII reclassified several telecommunications services from the value-added category to the basic category" and "placed restrictions on what new services could be classified under the value-added category."

The report finds that "These moves have limited the ability of U.S. firms to access China’s telecommunications market because, under China’s Services Schedule, basic services are on a slower liberalization schedule, and MII subjects them to higher capitalization requirements. Indeed, MII requires suppliers of basic services to satisfy an excessive registered capital requirement of RMB 2 billion ($241 million). A review of capital requirements around the world shows essentially no capital requirements in many WTO member markets, including, for example, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, the member States of the European Union, Japan and the United States. Where capital-related requirements do exist, they typically take the form of guarantees."

Moreover, the report finds, "MII continues to process applications very slowly for the few foreign-invested telecommunications enterprises that have attempted to satisfy MII’s licensing requirements."

Washington Tech Calendar
New items are highlighted in red.
Thursday, December 15

The House will meet a 10:00 AM for legislative business. See, Republican Whip Notice.

The Senate will meet at 9:00 AM. It will begin consideration of the conference report on HR 3010, the Labor, HHS Appropriations Act of 2006. It will also resume consideration of the conference report on HR 3199, the PATRIOT Act extension bill. See, full text of the conference report [219 pages in PDF].

10:00 AM. The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a business meeting. The agenda includes consideration of S 1608, the "Undertaking Spam, Spyware, and Fraud Enforcement With Enforcers Beyond Borders Act of of 2005 (U.S. SAFE WEB Act). See, notice. Press contact: Melanie Alvord (Stevens) at 202 224-8456, Aaron Saunders (Stevens) at 202 224-3991, or Andy Davis (Inouye) at 202 224-4546. Location: Room 106, Dirksen Building.

10:00 AM. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will hold a public hearing on its notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) regarding the source of income derived from international communications activity. See, notice in the Federal Register, September 19, 2005, Vol. 70, No. 180, at Pages 54859 - 54878. Location: Auditorium, Internal Revenue Building, 1111 Constitution Ave., NW.

10:30 AM. The House Commerce Committee (HCC) will meet to mark up three bills, including HR 4127, the "Data Accountability and Trust Act (DATA)". The meeting wil be webcast by the HCC. Press contact: Larry Neal (Barton) at 202 225-5735, Terry Lane (Barton) at 202 225-5735. Location: Room 2123, Rayburn Building.

Day two of a two day conference hosted by Comptel titled "COMPTEL Executive Business & Policy Summit". See, notice. Location: Washington Capital Hilton.

Friday, December 16

The House may meet for legislative business at 9:00 AM. See, Republican Whip Notice.

9:00 - 11:00 AM. The Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Network Reliability and Interoperability Council (NRIC) will meet. The agenda includes discussion of "E911 issues, final recommendations for next generation E911 architectures and transition issues, new best practices for improving the reliability of E911 networks and services, target network architectures for communications with emergency services personnel, and best practices for network security". See, FCC notice [PDF]. Location: FCC, Commission Meeting Room, 445 12th Street, SW.

Saturday, December 17

The House may meet for legislative business. See, Republican Whip Notice.

Monday, December 19

Deadline to submit initial comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in response to its notice of proposed rulemaking regarding its rules affecting Wireless Radio Services. This item is FCC 05-144 in WT Docket Nos. 03-264. The FCC adopted this item on July 22, 2005. It released the text [67 pages in PDF] on August 9, 2005. See, notice in the Federal Register, October 19, 2005, Vol. 70, No. 201, at Pages 60770 - 60781.

Deadline to submit comments to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regarding improving the draft RFP [154 pages in PDF] for remaking the SEC's Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval (EDGAR) Platform. See also, SEC release, draft RFP cover letter [PDF], and story titled "SEC Seeks Contractor to Remake EDGAR" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,259, November 23, 2005.

Friday, December 23

Informal deadline to submit comments to Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) and/or Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA) regarding their discussion draft [31 pages in PDF] of a bill to be titled the "Universal Service Reform Act of 2005". See, story titled "Reps. Terry and Boucher Propose New Internet Taxes" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,257, November 21, 2005.

FTC Sues and Settles with Directv for Violation of TSR

12/12. The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a complaint [PDF] in U.S. District Court (CDCal), on behalf of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), against Directv, and others who telemarketed on its behalf, alleging violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTCA) and the FTC's telemarketing sales rule (TSR).

The DOJ and Directv simultaneously filed a joint pleading [16 [pages in PDF] titled "Stipulated Judgment and Order for Permanent Injunction Against Directv, Inc." Directv will pay $5,335,000.

The complaint alleges that the defendants "engaged in or caused others to engage in initiating an outbound telephone call to a person’s telephone number on the National Do Not Call Registry in violation of the TSR, 16 C.F.R. § 310.4(b)(1)(iii)".

It also alleges that Directv "abandoned or caused others to abandon an outbound telephone call i.e., to fail to connect the call to a sales representative within two (2) seconds of the completed greeting of the person answering the call, in violation of the TSR, 16 C.F.R. § 310.4(b)(1)(iv) and § 310.4(b)".

Finally, it alleges that Directv provided substantial assistance and support to others that it knew, or consciously avoided knowing, were engaged in violations of § 310.4 of the TSR.

This case is U.S.A. v. Directv, Inc., et al., U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Western Division, D.C. No. SACV 05 1211. See also, FTC release.

People and Appointments

12/14. President Bush nominated Patrick Schiltz to be a Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota. See, White House release.

12/14. President Bush nominated Jack Zouhary to be a Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. See, White House release.

12/15. Bruce Carnes was named SVP, Finance and Administration, for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), effective January 1, 2006. He was previously CFO at the Department Energy (DOE). See, NCTA release. Kyle McSlarrow, the P/CEO of the NCTA, was Deputy Secretary of Energy and Chief Operating Officer at the DOE until he was hired by the NCTA early this year.

12/12. Gail MacKinnon was named SVP, Government Relations, for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), effective January 1, 2006. She is currently SVP, Washington, for CBS Corporation. She will replace Steve Berry. See, NCTA release.

12/7. The Technology CEO Council named Edward Zander to be its new Chairman. Zander is the Ch/CEO of Motorola. He replaces Craig Barrett, Chairman of Intel. See, release.

More News

12/13. The House Judiciary Committee's (HJC) Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law amended and approved, by voice vote, HR 1956, the "Business Activity Tax Simplification Act of 2005". See, story titled "House Subcommittee Holds Hearing on State Business Activity Taxes" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,223, September 28, 2005.

12/13. The Senate approved HR 4340, the "United States-Bahrain Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act". The House approved the bill on December 7, 2005. President Bush will sign it.

12/14. President Bush signed an executive order regarding the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which is codified at 5 U.S.C. § 552. The order states that agencies shall respond to FOIA requests "appropriately". It also states that "agencies shall process requests under the FOIA in an efficient and appropriate manner and achieve tangible, measurable improvements in FOIA processing." The order is 2,272 words long. However, it nowhere directs agencies to comply with the language of the statute. For example, most agencies routinely violate the time limits imposed by the FOIA. Bush's order does not direct agencies to comply with these statutory requirements.

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