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February 16, 2006, Alert No. 1,311.
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AG Gonzales Discusses DOJ Activities

2/15. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales gave a speech to Department of Justice (DOJ) employees in which he reviewed the activities and operations of the DOJ. See also, DOJ release summarizing the speech.

IPR Enforcement. He said, without further discussion, that "Protecting intellectual property will help preserve our nation's economic security and our competitive advantage in the world. And I will continue to advocate energetically for adequate resources so that we can accomplish all of these objectives."

Creation of National Security Division. He stated that "we expect to continue to be aided by the USA Patriot Act, which Congress is poised to renew. We will then be able to stand up the new National Security Division to better coordinate our anti-terrorism efforts here within the Department of Justice."

Currently, there is a National Security Division within the FBI, which is a component of the DOJ. However, there is no National Security Division within the DOJ. This statement by Gonzales reflects plans to reorganize the DOJ.

The DOJ has a Criminal Division, which includes a Counterterrorism Section, Counterespionage Section, and other units that handle national security related matters. The DOJ also has an Office of Intelligence Policy and Review (OIPR). The OIPR is responsible for, among other things, applications for electronic surveillance and physical search under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

Cybercrime. He said that "In addition to the fight against terrorism, the Justice Department will focus on five priority areas in the coming year: violent crime, drug trafficking, cyber crime, civil rights, and public and corporate corruption." He spoke at length about internet crimes against children, but otherwise did not elaborate on computer or cyber crime.

Alberto GonzalesGonzales (at right) said that "I'm pleased today to announce a major initiative, Project Safe Childhood. The goal of Project Safe Childhood is to prevent the exploitation of our kids over the Internet, to clean up this new neighborhood, just as we work to reduce gun crime on our city streets. We'll do it using the same successful approach as Project Safe Neighborhoods, with unprecedented coordination by law enforcement at every level."

He continued that the DOJ, and its U.S. Attorneys offices, will work with, and share resources and information with, local law enforcement agencies. He added that "This effort will also be coordinated with ongoing nationwide operations. When the Criminal Division or the FBI takes down a commercial Web site or server, for instance, they uncover hundreds or thousands of leads that local Project Safe Childhood task forces can track down in their own districts."

"Sometimes this work requires specialized techniques, and Project Safe Childhood will help facilitate training for officers and prosecutors, with assistance from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the ICAC program, and others", said Gonzales. And, the DOJ will work to "raise awareness and to equip parents and children with the tools and information they need to become responsible Internet users ..." See also, DOJ release regarding Project Safe Childhood.

Bernanke Testifies Regarding Tech and Economy

2/15. Ben Bernanke, the new Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board (FRB), testified before the House Financial Services Committee (HFSC) regarding the FRB's semiannual Monetary Policy Report to the Congress [29 pages in PDF].

Ben BernankeBernanke (at right) wrote in his prepared testimony that, last year, "Investment in high-tech equipment rebounded, its increase spurred by further declines in the prices of high-tech goods. Expenditures for communications equipment, which had fallen off earlier this decade, showed particular strength for the year as a whole."

The FRB's Report offers more detail. It states that "Real investment in high-technology equipment rose 17 percent in 2005, as further declines in prices provided a substantial incentive for firms to step up their outlays on such items; the increase was 5 percentage points faster than in 2003 and 2004 and about in line with the average annual gain over the past twenty-five years. Spending on communications equipment was exceptionally strong last year, as telecom service providers rolled out major new fiber-optic systems and third-generation wireless gear. Business spending for computing equipment rose roughly 30 percent in real terms, a pace close to its historical average, while spending on software posted its largest increase in several years."

The FRB report also addressed the impact of information technology upon productivity. It states that "Labor productivity in the nonfarm business sector continued to advance in 2005. Last year’s increase in output per hour of 2¼ percent was noticeably below the average annual gain over the preceding four years. But taking the longer view, growth in labor productivity over the past five years has averaged 3¼ percent per year, nearly ¾ percentage point faster than the already impressive gains posted between 1995 and 2000. Productivity appears to have received considerable impetus in recent years from a number of factors, including the rapid pace of technological change and the growing ability of firms to use information and other technology to improve the efficiency of their operations. Increases in the amount of capital per worker, especially high-tech capital, have also helped to spur productivity growth over the past few years, although apparently by less than was the case during the capital spending boom in the late 1990s."

House Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Electronic Payments System

2/15. The House Commerce Committee's (HCC) Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet held a hearing titled "The Law and Economics of Interchange Fees".

Tim MurisFormer Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Timothy Muris (at right) testified against government regulation of the rates that merchants pay for access to the electronic payment infrastructure of the payment card networks. See, prepared testimony [PDF]. He now works for the law firm of O'Melveny & Myers, and represents the Electronic Payments Coalition.

Karen Kerrigan, head of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council, wrote in her prepared testimony [PDF] that the electronic payments system is beneficial to small businesses, and that government imposed price controls could harm small businesses through the reduced use of electronic payments.

Edmund Mierzwinsky, of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, wrote in his prepared testimony [PDF] that banks engage in anticompetitive practices to collect billions of dollars of excessive interchange fees from merchants accepting credit or debit cards.

Henry Armour, head of the National Association of Convenience Stores, wrote in his prepared testimony [PDF] that "credit card companies charge about 5 cents in interchange on a gallon of gas". He said that these fees are "unfair", and that the market is "broken".

More News

2/14. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Kevin Martin gave a speech [2 pages in PDF] in Washington DC at a convention of the Association of Public Television Stations. He praise public television stations for broadcasting information related to Hurricane Katrina.

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Washington Tech Calendar
New items are highlighted in red.
Thursday, February 16

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

The Senate will meet at 9:30 AM. It will resume consideration of  S 2271,  the "USA PATRIOT Act Additional Reauthorizing Amendments Act of 2006".

9:15 AM - 1:30 PM. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will host a half day conference titled "Private Securities Litigation Ten Years After the PSLRA: What’s Working, What’s Not?". See, notice. Location: U.S. Chamber, 1615 H St., NW.

9:30 AM. The Senate Judiciary Committee may hold an executive business meeting. See, notice. The SJC frequently cancels or postpones meetings without notice. Location: Room 226, Dirksen Building.

10:00 AM. The Senate Banking Committee will hold a hearing titled "First Monetary Policy Report to the Congress for 2006". Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke will testify. See, notice. Location: Room 538, Dirksen Building.

10:30 AM. The Senate Finance Committee (SFC) will hold a hearing on the Bush administration's trade agenda for 2006. Rob Portman, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), will testify. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), the Chairman of the SFC, stated on February 14 that he will question Portman on the USTR's February 14 report [29 pages in PDF] titled "U.S.-China Trade Relations: Entering a New Phase of Greater Accountability and Enforcement: Top-to-Bottom Review". Location: Room 215, Dirksen Building.

12:00 NOON - 2:00 PM. The DC Bar Association will host a panel discussion titled "What Every Lawyer Needs to Know About Copyright and Fair Use". The speakers will include Ronald Dove (Covington & Burling), Margaret Esquenet (Finnegan Henderson), and Matthew DelNero (Covington & Burling). The price to attend ranges from $15-$25. For more information, call 202 626-3463. See, notice. Location: D.C. Bar Conference Center, 1250 H Street NW, B-1 Level.

2:00 PM. The House Appropriations Committee's Science, the Departments of State, Justice, and Commerce, and Related Agencies will hold a hearing on the budget for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). Location: H-309, Capitol Building.

6:00 - 8:15 PM. The Federal Communications Bar Association's (FCBA) Engineering Committee will host a continuing legal education (CLE) seminar titled "FCC Regulation of New Technologies". The speakers will be Mitchell Lazarus (Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth), Julius Knapp (Deputy Chief of the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology), Rashmi Doshi (Chief of the FCC's OET's Laboratory Division), Karl Nebbia (National Telecommunications Information Administration), Barry Ohlson (assistant to FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein), and Jay Birnbaum (Current Communications Group). See, notice and registration form [PDF]. The price to attend ranges from $50 to $125. Location: Dow Lohnes & Albertson, 1200 New Hampshire Ave., NW.

8:15 PM. Georgetown University Law Center (GULC) will host a panel discussion titled "The War on Terror: Civil Defense vs. Civil Liberties". The speakers will be Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), Neal Katyal (GULC), Seymour Hersh, and Wolf Blitzer (CNN). Location: GULC, Hart Auditorium, McDonough Hall, 600 New Jersey Ave., NW.

Friday, February 17

The House may meet. The Republican Whip Notice states that "no votes are expected".

Monday, February 20

George Washington's birthday.

The House will not meet on Monday, February 20, through Friday, February 24. See, Majority Whip's calendar.

The Senate will not meet on Monday, February 20, through Friday, February 24. See, 2006 Senate calendar.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and other federal offices will be closed. See, Office of Personnel Management's (OPM) list of federal holidays.

12:00 NOON UTC. Deadline to submit comments to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) regarding the proposed agreements that would settle litigation between VeriSign and the ICANN. See, story titled "ICANN Seeks Comments on Settlement of Litigation with VeriSign" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,300, January 31, 2006.

Tuesday, February 21

12:15 PM. The Federal Communications Bar Association's (FCBA) Mass Media Practice Committee will host a brown bag lunch titled "Broadcasters Delve Into the Digital Future". The speakers will be Rick Chessen (Sheppard Mullin), David Fleming (General Counsel of Gannett Broadcasting), Albert Shuldiner (General Counsel of iBiquity), Steve Smith (Broadcast Technology Consultants, Inc.), and Mike Starling (NPR). For more information, contact Eva Dia at edia at sheppardmullin dot com. Location: Sheppard Mullin, 1300 I Street, 11th floor.

Wednesday, February 22

12:00 NOON - 1:30 PM. The Federal Communications Bar Association's (FCBA) International Telecommunications Committee will host a brown bag lunch. The topic will be the FCC's International Bureau's (IB) accomplishments in 2005 and goals for 2006. The speaker will be Don Abelson, Chief of the IB. For more information, contact Ann Henson at ann at fcba dot org. Location: Skadden Arps, 11th floor, 700 14th St., NW.

12:00 NOON. The Federal Communications Bar Association's (FCBA) Wireless Committee will host a lunch. The topic will be "Impact of the U.S. Wireless Industry on the U.S. Economy". The speaker will be Roger Entner (Ovum). The price to attend is $15. Registrations and cancellations are due by 12:00 NOON on February 17. See, registration form [PDF]. Location: Sidley Austin, 1500 K Street, 6th Floor.

2:00 - 4:00 PM. The Department of State's International Telecommunication Advisory Committee (ITAC) will hold the seventh in a series of weekly meetings to prepare for the International Telecommunications Union's (ITU) 2006 ITU Plenipotentiary Conference, to be held November 6-24, 2006, in Antalya, Turkey. See, notice in the Federal Register, December 21, 2005, Vol. 70, No. 244, at Page 75854. This notice incorrectly states that these meetings will be held on Tuesdays; they are on Wednesdays. For more information, contact Julian Minard at 202 647-2593 or minardje at state dot gov. Location: AT&T, 1120 20th St., NW.

Thursday, February 23

8:00 AM - 2:00 PM. The Board of Directors of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) will meet. For more information, contact: Barbara York or Kawania Wooten at 202 775-3669. Location: St. Regis Hotel.

Deadline to submit reply comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in response to its notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) regarding the rules for expanding the scope of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) to cover certain digital services. The FCC adopted a report and order (R&O) and further NPRM on November 3, 2005. The R&O expanded the categories of service providers that are subject to the FCC's EAS mandates to include providers of digital broadcast and cable TV, digital audio broadcasting, satellite radio, and direct broadcast satellite (DBS) services. The NPRM asks for comments how the FCC should plan this "next-generation alert and warning system". See, story titled "FCC Requires DBS, Satellite Radio, Digital Broadcasters, and Others to Carry AES Communications" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,247, November 4, 2005. The R&O and NPRM is FCC 05-191 in EB Docket No. 04-296. It was released on November 10, 2005. See, notice in the November 25, 2005, Vol. 70, No. 226, at Pages 71072 - 71077.