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March 12, 2008, Alert No. 1,730.
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Bush Announces He Will Veto Latest House Democratic FISA Proposal

3/13. President Bush gave a speech at the White House on Thursday, March 13, 2008, in which he said he would veto the latest FISA reform advanced by House Democratic leaders. The House postponed its consideration of this bill from Thursday to Friday, March 14. Bush reasoned that the Democratic proposal fails to grant retroactive immunity to companies that have cooperated with the government.

Bush said that "This week House leaders are finally bringing legislation to the floor. Unfortunately, instead of holding a vote on the good bipartisan bill that passed the United States Senate, they introduced a partisan bill that would undermine America's security. This bill is unwise. The House leaders know that the Senate will not pass it. And even if the Senate did pass it, they know I will veto it."

The bill [2.5 MB PDF file] that President Bush opposes is the House Democrats' latest version of HR 3773 [LOC | WW], the "Responsible Electronic Surveillance That is Overseen, Reviewed, and Effective Act of 2007" or "RESTORE Act". The House passed an previous version on November 15, 2007. The bill that the President supports is S 2248 [LOC | WW], the "Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 Amendments Act of 2007", which the Senate passed on February 12.

Bush explained that one reason for his veto would be its lack of retroactive immunity. He said that "the House bill fails to provide liability protection to companies believed to have assisted in protecting our nation after the 9/11 attacks. Instead, the House bill would make matters even worse by allowing litigation to continue for years. In fact, House leaders simply adopted the position that class action trial lawyers are taking in the multi-billion-dollar lawsuits they have filed."

He continued that "This litigation would undermine the private sector's willingness to cooperate with the intelligence community, cooperation that is absolutely essential to protecting our country from harm. This litigation would require the disclosure of state secrets that could lead to the public release of highly classified information that our enemies could use against us. And this litigation would be unfair, because any companies that assisted us after 9/11 were assured by our government that their cooperation was legal and necessary."

He also said that another reason for vetoing the bill would its language regarding court approval of government activities. He said that "the House bill could reopen dangerous intelligence gaps by putting in place a cumbersome court approval process that would make it harder to collect intelligence on foreign terrorists." He added that the latest bill "would extend protections we enjoy as Americans to foreign terrorists overseas. It would cause us to lose vital intelligence on terrorist threats".

Third, President Bush complained that the Democrat's bill would "establish yet another commission to examine past intelligence activities". He said that the House and Senate Judiciary and Intelligence Committees already provide oversight, and that "Congress should stop playing politics with the past and focus on helping us prevent terrorist attacks in the future."

The House held a closed session on Thursday night, March 13, at which it reviewed information regarding government surveillance.

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), the House Majority Leader, wrote in a statement afterwards that "I did not hear any new information tonight that dissuades me from my very strong belief that the FISA bill House Democrats have produced -- and which the House will vote on tomorrow -- is a reasonable, thoughtful, appropriate piece of legislation that will ensure that the intelligence community has all the tools it needs to protect our nation, while also respecting the Constitutional protections that Americans rightfully feel are so important. Tomorrow, I will urge members on both sides of the aisle to vote for this legislation."

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee (HJC), wrote in a statement that "The more my colleagues know, the less they believe this administration's rhetoric. As someone who has chaired classified hearings and reviewed classified materials on this subject, I believe the more information members receive about this administration's actions in the area of warrantless surveillance, the more likely they are to reject the administration's scare tactics and threats. My colleagues who joined me in the hearings and reviewed the administration's documents have walked away with an inescapable conclusion: the administration has not made the case for unprecedented spying powers and blanket retroactive immunity for phone companies."

On March 13, 2008, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sent a letter to members of the House urging opposition to the latest Democratic bill.

It wrote that the Chamber "strongly supports the Senate version of H.R. 3773, the “FISA Amendments Act of 2008,” passed by a bipartisan vote of 69-29, and urges you to oppose the anticipated House amendment to the legislation. The House amendment would, among other things, eliminate provisions providing immunity for telecommunications providers. The Chamber believes that the immunity provision included in the Senate-passed bill provides necessary, appropriate, and targeted relief commensurate with the threat to national security that arose in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks."

DOJ Inspector General Releases Second Report on FBI Misuse of National Security Letters

3/13. The Department of Justice's (DOJ) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released a report [187 pages in PDF] titled "A Review of the FBI’s Use of National Security Letters: Assessment of Corrective Actions and Examination of NSL Usage in 2006".

On March 9, 2007, the DOJ's OIG released a report [30 MB in PDF] titled "A Review of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Use of National Security Letters", and a second report [10 MB in PDF] titled "A Review of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Use of Section 215 Order for Business Records". See also, story titled "DOJ IG Releases Reports on Use of NSLs and Section 215 Authority" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,551, March 13, 2007. That report covered the use of NSLs in 2003 through 2005.

The purpose of the just released report is to address the use of NSLs in 2006, and to "describe and assess the response by the FBI and the Department to the serious misuse of NSL authorities that our first report described".

The report finds violations of NSL authority in 2006 similar to the violations reported for 2003-2005 in the 2007 report. However, it should be noted that in 2006 the FBI had not yet received the 2007 report.

The report also concludes that "since issuance of our March 2007 report, the FBI and the Department have made significant progress in implementing the recommendations from that report and in adopting other corrective actions to address serious problems we identified in the use of national security letters. The FBI has also devoted significant energy, time, and resources toward ensuring that its field managers and agents understand the seriousness of the FBI's shortcomings in its use of NSLs and their responsibility for correcting these deficiencies."

However, it adds that "we believe that it is too early to definitively state whether the new systems and controls developed by the FBI and the Department will eliminate fully the problems with the NSLs that we identified."

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC), which oversees the FBI, issued a statement in response.

He wrote, in full, that "Last week, the FBI Director previewed and soft-pedaled the Inspector General’s report on National Security Letters released this morning. It outlines more abuses and what appears to be the improper use of National Security Letters for years in a systemic failure throughout the FBI. In addition to the violations of law we examined last year, this new IG report suggests that the FBI mirrors the rest of the Bush administration in seeking to avoid accountability by providing itself blanket authority. When the Senate returns after the March recess, I intend to follow up with another oversight hearing.  Legislative action may be necessary to correct these abuses. I intend to seek accountability and advertence to the rule of law, which was evaded before 2007.”

John Miller, head of the FBI's Office of Public Affairs, stated in a release that "the FBI has committed significant time and resources and has made significant progress toward correcting the deficiencies identified during last year’s review".

GAO Releases Report on FCC Enforcement Actions

3/13. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report [58 pages in PDF] titled "Telecommunications: FCC Has Made Some Progress in the Management of Its Enforcement Program but Faces Limitations, and Additional Actions Are Needed".

Kris MonteithThe FCC released an undated letter [108 pages in PDF] from Kris Monteith (at left), Chief of the FCC's Enforcement Bureau (EB), to the GAO in response to a draft of its report. She wrote that the "the GAO report contains several errors that detract from its utility".

Monteith also wrote that the FCC "is a proponent of strong enforcement action to protect consumers and to ensure" that the Communications Act is carried out.

The FCC's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau (CGB) is also involved in handling complaints.

The GAO report states that based on the GAO's analysis of the EB's databases for 2003-2006, the EB "conducted about 46,000 investigations. These investigations were in response to complaints that the Enforcement Bureau received directly, complaints received by CGB, audits and inspections, and self-initiated inquiries. As of December 2006, the Enforcement Bureau had closed about 39,000 of the 46,000 investigations. Based on our analysis of FCC’s Enforcement Bureau's databases for 2003 through 2006, about 9 percent, or almost 3,400, of these investigations were closed with an enforcement action, and approximately 83 percent, or about 32,200, were closed with no enforcement."

Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), Chairman of the House Commerce Committee (HCC), the stated in a release that "When more than 80 percent of complaints investigated by the FCC are closed without any meaningful enforcement action, and it isn’t possible to determine why no action was taken, then it appears that the FCC has abdicated its duty to protect consumers."

He continued that "This GAO report clearly demonstrates why we cannot rely solely on the FCC to enforce complaints, and why it is important to have safeguards in place at both the federal and the state level, as is the case in my home state of Michigan."

Rep. Dingell concluded that the HCC "will exercise vigorous oversight to ensure that consumers have adequate protections and that the FCC performs its duties in an effective and timely manner."

The GAO report added that EB officials "told us that some investigations may be closed with no enforcement action for such reasons as insufficient information or a determination that no violation occurred."

The report also reflects that most of the complaints are related to either unsolicited calls and messages or billing and rates.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin stated in a release that "I appreciate the GAO's examination of the FCC’s enforcement efforts and welcome its recommendations. Since I became Chairman, the Enforcement Bureau is responding to 100% of Consumer complaints. Additionally, under my Chairmanship, the Commission has collected a record amount of fines, forfeitures and consent decree payments."

District Court Enjoins Spyware Distributor

3/10. The U.S. District Court (DNev) issued a final order [11 pages in PDF] in FTC v. ERG Ventures on January 3, 2008. The order permanently enjoins ERG Ventures, Timothy P. Taylor and others from distributing spyware software.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a release on March 10, 2008, that states that the defendants tricked consumers into downloading malicious software "by hiding it within seemingly innocuous free programs, including screensavers and video files. Once downloaded, the malware silently activated itself and installed programs that changed consumers' home pages, tracked their Internet activity, altered browser settings, degraded computer performance, and disabled anti-spyware and anti-virus software. Many of the malware programs installed by the defendants were extremely difficult or impossible for consumers to remove from their computers."

The order bars the defendants from distributing, installing, or downloading software that "tracks consumers' Internet activity or collects other personal information; changes consumers' preferred Internet homepage settings; inserts a new advertising toolbar onto consumers' Internet browsers; generates numerous ``pop up´´ advertisements on consumers' computer screens even when consumers' Internet browsers are closed; adds advertising icons to the computer s desktop; tampers with, disables, or otherwise alters the performance of other programs including anti-spyware and anti-virus programs; alters Internet browser security settings, including the list of safe or trusted websites; or installs other advertising Software on consumers' computers."

The District Court issued an order on October 3, 2007, that covered most of the defendants. The January 3, 2008, order covers defendant Timothy P. Taylor. It also imposes a token monetary fine on Taylor. It also requires compliance monitoring, compliance reporting, and recording keeping by the defendants.

This case is FTC v. ERG Ventures LLC, et al., U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, D.C. No. 3:06-CV-00578-HDM-VPC , Judge Howard McKibben presiding.

Washington Tech Calendar
New items are highlighted in red.
Friday, March 14

The House will meet at 10:00 AM for legislative business. It is scheduled to consider HR 3773, the "FISA Amendments Act of 2008". See, Rep. Hoyer's calendar for week of March 10, and schedule for Friday, March 14.

Extended deadline to submit initial comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding the Petition for Declaratory Ruling [33 pages in PDF] filed by the Public Knowledge (PK) and other groups on December 11, 2007, pertaining to the regulatory status of text messaging services, including short code based services sent from and received by mobile phones. The PK requests that the FCC declare that these services are governed by the anti-discrimination provisions of Title II of the Communications Act. See, story titled "Verizon Wireless and Net Neutrality Advocates Clash Over Text Messaging" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,647, September 27, 2007. See also, letter from Verizon Wireless to NARAL dated September 27, 2007, and NARAL's web page titled "NARAL Pro-Choice America Wins Fight over Corporate Censorship". See also, story titled "Public Knowledge Asks FCC to Declare that Blocking and Refusing to Carry Text Messages Violates Title II" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,686, December 11, 2007. This proceeding is WT Docket No. 08-7. See, notice in the Federal Register, January 28, 2008, Vol. 73, No. 18, at Pages 4866-4867. See also, notice [PDF] of extension, DA 08-282.

EXTENDED TO APRIL 14. Deadline to submit reply comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding the Petition for Declaratory Ruling [33 pages in PDF] filed by the Public Knowledge (PK) and other groups on December 11, 2007, pertaining to the regulatory status of text messaging services, including short code based services sent from and received by mobile phones. See, notice [PDF] of extension, DA 08-282.

Deadline for recent law school graduates, graduating law students, and judicial clerks to submit to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) applications for participation in the FCC's 2008 Attorney Honors Program. See, FCC notice [PDF].

EXTENDED TO APRIL 28. Deadline to submit initial comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in response to its Report on Broadcast Localism and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. The FCC adopted this item on December 18, 2007, and released the text on January 24, 2008. It is FCC 07-218 in MB Docket No. 04-233. See, notice in the Federal Register, February 13, 2008, Vol. 73, No. 30, at Pages 8255-8259. See also, FCC's Public Notice [PDF] (DA 08-393). See also, Public Notice [PDF] (DA 08-515) extending deadlines.

Monday, March 17

St. Patrick's Day.

The House will begin is two week March recess. See, Rep. Hoyer's 2008 calendar [4.25 MB PDF].

The Senate will begin its March recess. See, Senate 2008 calendar.

Deadline to submit reply comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in response to its two notice of proposed rulemakings (NPRMs) regarding service rules for the Wireless Communications Service (WCS) and for terrestrial repeaters used in conjunction with the Satellite Digital Audio Radio Service (SDARS). These items are FCC 07-215 in WT Docket No. 07-293 and IB Docket No. 95-91. The FCC adopted these items on December 17, 2007, and released them on December 18, 2007. See, notice in the Federal Register, January 15, 2008, Vol. 73, No. 10, at Pages 2437-2440.

Deadline to submit reply comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in response to its Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding cable carriage of digital television broadcast signals. The FCC adopted this item on September 11, 2007, and released the text [68 pages in PDF] on November 30, 2007. This item is FCC 07-120 in CS Docket No. 98-120. See, notice in the Federal Register, February 1, 2008, Vol. 73, No. 22, at Pages 6099-6101, and story titled "FCC Adopts R&O and Further NPRM Regarding Cable Carriage of Digital Broadcast TV Signals" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,640, September 17, 2007.

Deadline to submit comments or original research to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) related to its workshop titled "Beyond Voice: Mapping the Mobile Marketplace" to be held on May 6-7, 2008. See, notice.

Tuesday, March 18

The House will not meet.

The Senate will not meet.

9:30 AM. The U.S. Court of Appeals (DCCir) will hear oral argument in Sprint Nextel v. FCC, App. Ct. No. 07-1416. Judges Ginsburg, Sentelle and Brown will preside. This is a petition for review of the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Third Memorandum Opinion and Order in its proceeding titled "Improving Public Safety Communications in the 800 MHz Band". See, FCC's brief [PDF]. Location: Location: 333 Constitution Ave., NW.

12:15 PM. The Federal Communications Bar Association's (FCBA) Wireless Practice Committee will host a lunch titled "Reflections on Spectrum Policy: The Licensed vs. Unlicensed Debates". The speakers will be David Donovan (Association for Maximum Service Television), Paul Kolodzy, Jonathan Nuechterlein (Wilmer Hale), and Ben Scott (Free Press). Location: Sidley Austin, 1501 K St., NW.

12:15 - 1:30 PM. The Federal Communications Bar Association's (FCBA) Intellectual Property Practice Committee will host a brown bag lunch titled "Intellectual Property Issues on Capitol Hill". The speakers will be Ryan Triplette (office of Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA)), Jennifer Schneider (office of Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA)), and Aaron Cooper (Senate Judiciary Committee staff). Location: Dow Lohnes, 1200 New Hampshire Ave., NW.

1:00 - 4:00 PM. The Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board's (ATBCB) Telecommunications and Electronic and Information Technology Advisory Committee (TEITAC) will meet by conference call. See, notice in the Federal Register, January 24, 2008, Vol. 73, No. 16, at Page 4132.

2:00 - 4:00 PM. The Department of State's (DOS) International Telecommunication Advisory Committee (ITAC) will hold one of a series of meetings to discuss the U.S. positions for the March and April 2008 meeting of the ITU-T Study Group 3 and related issues of the international telecommunication regulations. See, notice in the Federal Register, February 4, 2008, Vol. 73, No. 23, at Page 6547. Location?

TIME? The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will host a closed conference titled "FIPS 140-3: Software Security Workshop". See, notice. Location: NIST, Lecture Room B, 100 Bureau Drive, Building 101, Gaithersburg, MD.

Wednesday, March 19

The House will not meet.

The Senate will not meet.

Thursday, March 20

The House will not meet.

The Senate will not meet.

Friday, March 21

Good Friday.

The House will not meet.

The Senate will not meet.

12:15 - 1:30 PM. The Federal Communications Bar Association's (FCBA) Engineering and Technical Practice Committee will host a brown bag lunch titled "Understanding Satellite Technology and Spectrum Allocation". The speakers will be Tom Tycz (Goldberg Godles) and others. For more information, contact Christy Hammond at chammond at wileyrein dot com or 202-719-7365. Location: Wiley Rein, 10th floor conference room, 1750 K St., NW.

5:00 PM. Deadline to submit comments to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (OUSTR) regarding its negotiation of "an anti-counterfeiting trade agreement to strengthen international cooperation, enforcement practices, and participants' legal frameworks to address counterfeiting and piracy". See, notice in the Federal Register, February 15, 2008, Vol. 73, No. 32, at Pages 8910-8911.

People and Appointments

3/13. President Bush nominated Steven Agee to be a Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals (4thCir). He is currently a member of the Supreme Court of Virginia. See, White House release. There are also three other persons who have been nominated, but not confirmed, to be Judges of this Court of Appeals: Robert Conrad, Steve Matthews, and Rod Rosenstein. The Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) has not held hearings on any of these three. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the Chairman of the SJC, gave a speech in the Senate on March 7, 2008, regarding the confirmation process. He asserted that "I have continued to move forward and sought to make progress" on judicial nominations. He blamed delays on Republicans, and added that Republicans held up many of former President Clinton's judicial nominations. He said that "The Republican Senate chose to stall consideration of circuit nominees and maintain vacancies during the Clinton administration in anticipation of a Republican presidency." Sen. Leahy did not concede that Democrats and Republicans pursue similar strategies.

3/13. Emilio Gonzalez announced his intent to resign as Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), effective April 18, 2008. See, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) release.

3/13. Danielle Yates will join the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) as Director of External Affairs on March 24, 2008. Heather Greenfield, who joined the CCIA in February, remains Director of Media Relations. Yates has long worked for the Internet Education Foundation (IEF), which is associated with the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT). Greenfield was previously a reporter with the National Journal's Technology Daily, which ceased publishing in January. Ed Black is the head of the CCIA.

3/13. Jeff Murray joined the Nickles Group as Director, Legislative Affairs. He will focus on intellectual property, media and entertainment issues. He was legislative director for Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL), a members of the House Judiciary Committee (HJC) and its Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property. Former Sen. Don Nickles (R-OK) is the head of the Nickles Group.

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