TLJ News from April 6-10, 2007

Senate Finance Committee to Examine Use of ID Theft to Obtain Tax Refunds of Others

4/10. The Senate Finance Committee (SFC) announced that it will hold a hearing on Thursday, April 12, 2007, titled "Filing Your Taxes: An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure". The witness panel includes Evangelos Dimitrios Soukas, who the SFC notice describes as "An individual convicted of crimes including identity fraud and submitting fraudulent claims to the IRS".

The SFC stated in a release [PDF] that the Department of Justice (DOJ) attempted, but failed, to prevent him from testifying. It wrote that the DOJ "filed a motion to quash the Finance Committee's summons for the witness's testimony. Judge Thomas F. Hogan today affirmed the Committee’s right to call the witness -- who is now expected to testify as planned, to help the Committee understand how as many as 15,000 American taxpayers may have fallen victim to identity theft tax crimes last year."

See also, SFC's Application for Writ of Habeas Corpus Ad Testificandum [PDF] and DOJ's motion to quash [PDF].

Soukas is in custody in a federal prison in the state of California. His criminal activities included fraudulent online auctioning of laptops and other merchandise, identity theft to fraudulently open and use bank accounts in the names of others, and identity theft to fraudulently obtain federal tax returns owing to others.

See, July 22, 2005, release of the U.S. Attorneys Office for the Western District of Washington. See also, indictment [37 pages in PDF] and plea agreement [25 pages in PDF]. This case is USA v. Evangelos Dimitrios Soukas, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, D.C. No. CR-05-006.

The SFC hearing will be held at 10:00 AM in Room G50 of the Dirsksen Building, a room larger than the SFC's usual hearing room.

The witness list also includes Michael Phillips, the Deputy Inspector General for Audit at the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). On March 23, 2007, the TIGTA completed a report titled "The Internal Revenue Service Is Not Adequately Protecting Taxpayer Data on Laptop Computers and Other Portable Electronic Media Devices". See, story titled "IRS Reports Loss of Another 490 Computers" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,560, April 4, 2007.

The other witnesses will be Mark Everson (IRS Commissioner), Eileen O'Connor (Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Tax Division), and James White (Government Accountability Office).

People and Appointments

4/10. Kevin O'Connor was named Chief of Staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, effective April 26, 2007. O'Connor is currently the U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut. Chuck Rosenberg, the interim Chief of Staff, will then return to his position as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. See, DOJ release.

4/10. Melanie Ann Pustay was named Director of the Department of Justice's (DOJ) Office of Information and Privacy (OIP). She replaces Dan Metcalfe. She has worked in the OIP for 24 years. One of the primary functions of the OIP is to provide support to the various components of the DOJ in their efforts to evade their statutory obligations under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The DOJ also stated in a release that Pustay "has worked with government officials in China, Argentina, Chile and other countries to assist in implementing guidance for openness-in-government initiatives".

More News

4/10. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) released a report [17 pages in PDF] titled "Results of the 2007 Section 1377 Review of Telecommunications Trade Agreements".

4/10. The Senate Commerce Committee held an oversight hearing on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). See, prepared testimony [42 pages in PDF] of the FTC. The FTC renewed its request to be given civil penalty authority in unfair or deceptive acts or practices cases, including "in the areas of data security, telephone pretexting and spyware". Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) wrote in his opening statement that the SCC "must ensure that the FTC has the regulatory authority it needs to go after and prosecute bad actors; particularly when the crimes involve emerging technologies. The illicit use of spam and spyware to perpetuate identity theft is one instance where increased regulatory authority would assist the Commission in doing its job."

4/10. The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) published a notice in the Federal Register that announces, describes, recites, and sets the comment deadline and effective date of its interim final rule that establishes procedures for the public to obtain information from the PCLOB under the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The comment deadline and the effective date are both May 25, 2007. See, Federal Register, April 10, 2007, Vol. 72, No. 68, at Pages 17789-17792.

4/10. The Department of Commerce's (DOC) National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced that its will hold a single FY 2007 Advanced Technology Program (ATP) competition, that it is now soliciting proposals for financial assistance, that the deadline to submit proposals is 3:00 PM on May 21, 2007, and that it will host a series of five "ATP Proposers' Conferences" around the country in April. The four areas subsidized by the ATP are "Technologies for Advanced and Complex Systems", "Challenges in Advanced Materials and Devices", "21st Century Manufacturing", and "Nanotechnology". The NIST anticipates providing about $60 Million. The five conferences will be held from 9:00 AM to 12:30 PM, on the following dates, at the following locations:
  • April 13. NIST Red Auditorium, 100 Bureau Drive, Gaithersburg, MD.
  • April 16. Hyatt Regency Dearborn Fairlane Town Center, Dearborn, Detroit, MI.
  • April 18. Hyatt Harborside at Boston's Logan International Airport, 101 Harborside Drive, Boston, MA.
  • April 18. Los Angeles Airport Marriott, 5855 West Century Blvd., Los Angeles, CA.
  • April 20. Hilton Austin Airport, 9515 Hotel Drive, Austin, TX.
See, notice in the Federal Register, April 10, 2007, Vol. 72, No. 68, at Pages 17838-17841.

4/10. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), National Inventors Hall of Fame Foundation, and The Advertising Council announced a "a national, multimedia public service advertising (PSA) campaign to engage a new generation of children in innovation". See, Department of Commerce release.

US to Complain to WTO Regarding PR China's Failure to Protect IPR

4/9. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (OUSTR) announced the the US will initiate two related complaint proceedings before the World Trade Organization (WTO) regarding the People's Republic of China and intellectual property rights (IPR).

The two requests for consultations, to be filed with the WTO on Tuesday, April 10, will address China's failure to protect IPR in movies, music, books and other content, and China's access barriers for US content distributors.

That is, the gist of the two requests will be that not only does China not engage in adequate criminal enforcement, and not provide US content providers with adequate civil remedies, but that China also precludes US content providers from competing with their pirates.

See, full story.

People and Appointments

4/9. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce named Michael Ryan SVP and Executive Director of its Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness (CCMC). See, Chamber release.

9th Circuit Constrains Computer Privacy

4/6. The U.S. Court of Appeals (9thCir) issued its opinion [13 pages in PDF] in USA v. Heckenkamp, a Section 1030 case in which the issue is the admissibility of evidence acquired in a warrantless remote search of a student's hard drive by a university network administrator who was acting in association with the FBI.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court's denial of Heckenkamp's motion to suppress evidence under the special needs exception to the warrant requirement. The Court of Appeals held that federal prosecutors can use evidence collected in a warrantless computer search to prosecute a student for hacking computers outside of the university network, when the university acted out of an independent concern to protect its own computer systems.

See, full story.

Go to News from April 1-5, 2007.