Archive for the ‘senate’ Category

Tweeted @Privacyactivism 

“Senate #TSA oversight hearing tomorrow, 11/17. I’ve called my senator (& my airline), have you?#privacy

The Senate Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security will hold a
Transportation Security Administration Oversight Hearing next Wednesday.

Please forward this information as widely as possible.

Meeting info:

Jena Longo – Democratic Deputy Communications Director, (202) 224-8374
Nov 17 2010 10:00 AM
Russell Senate Office Building – 253

Contact the communications director to find out more information about the meeting.

The committee chair is Sen Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) phone (202) 224-6472. The ranking member is Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison 202-224-5922.

The subcommittee chair is Sen Byron L. Dorgon (D-ND) phone (202) 224-2551. The ranking member is Sen Jim DeMint (R-SC) phone (202) 224-6121.

Regardless of your home state, call the chairpersons to ask whether recent TSA abuses are on the agenda for the oversight hearing. Ask to speak with the staffer responsible for dealing with issues related to the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

Here is a list of committee members, their homepage and phone number. If one of these people is your Senator, please also phone them, either at the number below or look online to find their nearest local office – you can even visit in person. A constituent who knows a senator’s committee assignments and addresses issues for the agenda for a scheduled hearing gives him/herself an educated and powerful voice.

If none of these people is your senator, contact the committee chairs. Also contact your own senators and representative . They still need to hear your opinion, it’s just that they won’t be at this hearing.

D-AK Mark Begich (202) 224-3004
D-AR Mark Pryor (202) 224-2353
D-CA Barbara Boxer (202) 224-3553
D-FL Bill Nelson 202-224-5274
D-HI Daniel K. Inouye (202) 224.3934
D-MA John F. Kerry [(202) 224-2742
D-MN Amy Klobuchar 202-224-3244
D-MO Claire McCaskill 202-224-6154
D-ND Byron L. Dorgon phone (202) 224-2551
D-NJ Frank R. Lautenberg (973) 639-8700, (888) 398-1642
D-NM Tom Udall (202) 224-6621
D-VA Mark Warner 202-224-2023
D-WA Maria Cantwell 202-224-3441
D-WV Jay Rockefeller (202) 224-6472

R-FL George S. LeMieux (202) 224-3041
R-GA Johnny Isakson (202) 224-3643
R-KS Sam Brownback (202) 224-6521
R-LA David Vitter (202) 224-4623
R-ME Olympia J. Snowe (202) 224-5344, (800) 432-1599
R-MS Roger F. Wicker 202-224-6253
R-NE Mike Johanns (202) 224-4224
R-NV John Ensign (202) 224-6244
R-SC Jim DeMint phone (202) 224-6121
R-SD John Thune (202) 224-2321, 1-866-850-3855
R-TX Kay Bailey Hutchison 202-224-5922

This link has information on committee staff, as well.

c/o TechDirt , Mike Masnick

With health care reform out of the way, lots of politicians are pushing out new legislative ideas, hoping that Congress can now focus on other issues — so we’re seeing lots of bad legislation proposed. Let’s do a two for one post, highlighting two questionable bills that many of you have been submitting. The first, proposed by Senators Schumer and Graham, is technically about immigration reform, which is needed, but what’s scary is that the plan includes yet another plan for a national ID card. Didn’t we just go through this with Real ID, which was rejected by the states? Jim Harper, who follows this particular issue more than just about anyone, has an excellent breakdown of the proposal, questioning what good a national ID does, while also pointing to the potential harm of such a plan.

Then we have the big cybercrime bill put forth by.. Senators Rockefeller and Snowe (updated, since there are two separate cybersecurity bills, and its the Rockefeller/Snowe one that has people scared), that tries to deal with the “serious threat of cybercrime.” But, of course, it already has tech companies worried about the unintended consequences, especially when it requires complying with gov’t-issued security practices that likely won’t keep up with what’s actually needed:

“Despite all [the] best efforts, we do have concerns regarding whether government can rapidly recognize best practices without defaulting to a one-size-fits all approach,” they wrote.

“The NIST-based requirements framework in the bill, coupled with government procurement requirements, if not clarified, could have the unintended effect of hindering the development and use of cutting-edge technologies, products, and services, even for those that would protect our critical information infrastructure.”

They added the bill might impose a bureaucratic employee-certification program on companies or give the president the authority to mandate security practices.

This is one of those bills that sounds good for the headlines (cybercrime is bad, we need to stop it), but has the opposite effect in reality: setting up needless “standards” that actually prevent good security practices. It’s bills like both of these that remind us that technologically illiterate politicians making technology policy will do funky things, assuming that technology works with some sort of magic.

“How quickly will this database go from being strictly to prove employment eligibility to being used by police departments to gather fingerprints while circumventing the warrant process and Fourth Amendment rights of search and seizure?” – Michelle Ngo, EPIC

BTC – The AV quality on this video is semi-intelligible and uber techy. However, it does exhaustively convey how biometric breaches happen if and when they happen.

The policy on the prolific use of biometrics for worker identity is further covered by expert Michelle Ngo for Privacy Lives!

Where to begin? First, the senators say, “Each card’s unique biometric identifier would be stored only on the card; no government database would house everyone’s information.” But that seems unlikely. What if someone hacked a real card and added their biometric data (fingerprints, eye scans, whatever is chosen by the government) to the card? Their fingerprints would match the fingerprints on the card, so they would be “identified” as the name on the card. There would likely need to be a database to check for accurate credentials.

Altering a biometric digitally by breaking into the system is just one security problem with biometric identification. Individuals could use false identification at enrollment or a biometric could be altered physically.

The senators state that they need “a tamper-proof ID system” to fix the immigration problem. But there is no tamper-proof ID system. You can strengthen ID systems, but they’ll still be forged by people with means and motive. Former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said that the fact that REAL ID and other strengthened identification cards can be forged is a security problem:

I certainly have seen intelligence that tells me that sophisticated criminals and sophisticated terrorists spend a great deal of time learning to fabricate and forge even these improved cards. The net effect of this may be that it’s going to be harder for people on campus here to get a drink when they’re under 21, but unfortunately it’s not going to be that much harder for the most sophisticated dangerous people to counterfeit an identity card.

What the senators would be creating is a trusted card that could and would be forged by sophisticated criminals. Even if you allow the senators’ contentions: the tamper-proof card would have the biometric credential only on the card so there would be no national database, we must then look at the cost of this system. There would need to be computer systems set up for the new high-tech cards, strong encryption, special paper, special readers to 7.4 million employers in the United States, training for employers and employees, and other costs, as well. This would cost billions, perhaps trillions.

And how quickly would this employment verification card be expanded to many more uses beyond employment verification? It is to be “a high-tech, fraud-proof Social Security card,” and Social Security data is used for numerous uses today. Your Social Security number is used to open a bank account, credit account or even cellphone account. How soon before these entities say, “I need you to prove your identity by scanning your high-tech biometric Social Security card”?

How quickly will this database go from being strictly to prove employment eligibility to being used by police departments to gather fingerprints while circumventing the warrant process and Fourth Amendment rights of search and seizure? Who else could have access to your fingerprint and iris scans? The United States already has discussed sharing fingerprint and other biometric data of suspects with European countries. It’s a small step to opening up a national employee biometrics database to other countries.

Besides the security problem, there is also a substantial problem for U.S. citizens and others who may legally work in the United States. During the REAL ID national identification card debate, critics of the REAL ID program noted there is the false positive problem. U.S. workers were having problems with an employment eligibility verification system using Social Security and Homeland Security error-filled databases.Several federal (pdf) government evaluations (pdf) noted problems with database checks that lead to initial rejections for individuals who are legally eligible to work in the US, causing significant problems for eligible workers and their employers, who have done nothing wrong.

I must reiterate: This biometric identification system, where you must prove to the government that you are eligible to work, is proposed for all U.S. employees, not just immigrants. It is a terrible proposal that will not solve the immigration problem, but instead create substantial employment problems for U.S. citizens at a time when many need help to find employment, not more barriers against it.


c/o EFF
by Kevin Bankston

After a long two days of legislative battle, the House Judiciary Committee just finished its second day of debate on Chairman Conyers’ PATRIOT reform bill, HR 3845 (see our wrap-up of the first day). Thanks in no small part to those of you who used our action alert, the Committee rejected almost all amendments that would have weakened the bill’s reforms and voted to recommend the bill to the House floor by a vote of 16 to 10.

Even better, the Committee kept going after it was finished with PATRIOT to consider Representative Nadler’s State Secret Protection Act (HR 984), which would reform the state secrets privilege that the government has repeatedly used to try and throw EFF’s warrantless wiretapping cases out of court. After an impassioned defense by Mr. Nadler, who described how the government has used the privilege like a “magic incantation” to cover-up wrongdoing and warned that state secrecy “is the greatest threat to liberty at present,” the bill passed with even better numbers than the PATRIOT bill, 18 to 12!

It was, to say the least, a busy couple of days in the House Judiciary Committee. If you want the entire blow-by-blow of both day’s meetings, check out our Twitter stream at @EFF.

Admittedly, the PATRIOT bill isn’t all we had hoped for — as we described yesterday, it’s been weakened in a number of ways due to quiet pressure from the Obama Administration — but it passed through the Committee with most of its major reforms intact, and it is a substantial improvement over the PATRIOT bill approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee last month. Meanwhile, the state secrets reform bill made it through the committee without being watered down at all, with only a few technical changes. Thanks and congratulations to the representatives and activists that worked so hard to make that happen.

Eyes now turn to the Senate, where the Senate Judiciary Committee’s PATRIOT Bill (S. 1692) will soon land on the floor, and to the House Intelligence Committee, which will soon be marking-up its own competing PATRIOT bill with much fewer reforms (HR 3969). So, the war is far from over. But two important battles were won today.

Bob Barr for the Atlanta Constitution Journal

The move to nationalize the delivery of health care in America — which received a slight boost just yesterday with the Senate Finance Committee passing the Max Baucus health care bill out of the Finance Committee — offers government snoops a vast new universe of private health data to gather.

How clever these Feds be – create or highlight a private need (health care or education), then fashion a corresponding public benefit (universal health insurance or low-cost student loans), and you’re “In Like Flint.” Most Americans will gladly give you whatever information you tell them is necessary in order to deliver that “benefit”; and few will read the fine print even if there is any (members of Congress don’t; why should constituents?). Once the government gets the data, you’ll have no idea where it’s going, who will have access to it, how it will be used, or how long it will be retained.

This process – already in high gear – is moving us closer and closer to a national identification card, without actually saying so. :::MORE HERE:::

PASS Act Opponents snubbed

A BTC Exclusive

WASHINGTON -The first hearing to discuss efforts to repeal the Real ID Act is scheduled next Wednesday at 10:00 AM. Murmurs from organizers behind the scenes conclude that PASS Act proponents only will be invited to join DHS Senate Committee hearing, January 15th. According to ACLU sources, S.1261’s opponents are managing their expectations about the upcoming DHS Senate committee hearing and of the PASS Act in discussions.

“It’s certainly not uncommon for opponents of legislation that a committee supports to be excluded from hearings. Though usually, they’re simply put on a second, smaller panel and are subject to much harsher questioning from members. Either way, you can usually tell how a committee feels about particular legislation by the composition and order of panels during a hearing,” said Mary Bonventre. As of yesterday afternoon the ACLU has not yet received an invitation to the hearing.

Other civil liberties and privacy groups continue to express skepticism about how the hearing will be handled by DHS Chair, Joe Lieberman.

“The idea that the hearing is about re-evaluation of Real ID is the propaganda Akaka, Lieberman, DHS and everyone wants people to believe,” says Stop Real ID Coalition advocate, Mark Lerner. “This is why Stewart Baker is being allowed to testify.”

Baker, employed by DHS, is rumored to be skeptical himself over the PASS Act’s regulations to perform national security functions. While Real ID opponent, Center for Democracy & Technology is expected to extoll the virtues of compromise presented in the PASS Act.
The PASS Act doesn’t yet meet the standards of longtime electronic privacy advocate, Lee Tien of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) or of the Senate chairman’s performance on the issue.

“Put another way, congressional hearings are staged performances. Here it is being controlled by Lieberman, and he ruined PASS ID,” says Tien, who found less fault with the legislation “before Lieberman got hold of it.” 

The DHS Senate Committee has neither confirmed or denied whether the PASS Act will be brought up for discussion during the hearing. The hearing was scheduled to re-evaluate the effectiveness of Real ID as a legislation.

It’s been a hard week for identity in Texas.

For more of my libertarian readers, we don’t want or need more governed identity. So for all my liberal homies, my civil libertarians, my brown people, my grandmas and grandpas with no birth certificate, I’m drinking one for you. Because the likelihood that ID is required to vote makes voting now a suspicious activity where they need to know who you are.

Thank you Kirk Watson; you absolutely suck for attempting to hitch Real ID to this to get the GOP to kill it. May you never sleep again for all the babies you eat in your basement. You are not a good guy.

And here’s the bad news:

Texas Senate Passes Voter ID

c/o NorthTexas E- News

Austin – The Texas Senate gave final approval to Senate Bill 362 Joint-Authored by State Senator Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls) to require voters to present proof of their identity when casting ballots during Early Voting or on Election Day.

“Voter ID is an important step toward preventing voter fraud,” said Estes. “Voter fraud is a very real threat to the legitimacy of our electoral system, and in a close election could very well compromise the results of what voters would rightly expect to be a fair and honest election.”

Meh, it could be worse, right? Yeah… and it is.

In the last to know stack was, Yours Truly, who found out about HB 4036 filed by Texas House Public Safety Chairman, Tommy Merritt, among 4,244 bills filed in the House and 2,203 bills filed in the Senate by 3/13 last Friday. Merritt’s staffers had good manners and were very efficient in explaining to me why the Chairman would not be able to author legislation against or opposed to the Real ID. It was simply becuase he had signed on to represent the wishes of DPS baddies who wanted the federal cheddar – possibly even more than he did by filing their bill in favor of the federal ID. We understand. It’s not personal. DPS can’t let a thing like the Constitution and the 10th Amendment get in the way of servicing the Gods of globalized business, especially when the withdrawls are so painful.

Which inspires me to create a very large pacifier made from chedda(R) endorsed by WIC programs and drop it right on their big fat Republican doorstep. WAY TO GO MEN – YOU ARE ROCKING THE BASE BIG GOVERNMENT STYLE. Hope you get a love note from Janet N. & Obama – BECAUSE WE THINK YOU SUCK!!!