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Privacy under attack (again) on Capitol Hill

the 'administrative subpoena' catches on

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Washington Roundup The seemingly-endless legislative session rolls along, as US President Bill Clinton again signed a Continuing Resolution (CR) Friday granting Congress yet another extension to conclude the nation's business. "Unfortunately, Congress has shown little urgency toward completing its work even though we are now three weeks into the new fiscal year and some of our most essential priorities, especially in the area of education, have yet to be addressed," the President observed. Easy for him to say; he's not running for office. Doesn't he know how busy these guys are.



One of the most bizarre items currently proceeding under the CR has to be the Presidential Threat Protection Act of 2000, sponsored by House Subcommittee on Crime Chairman Bill McCollum (Republican, Florida), which was ostensibly designed to provide better protection to former Presidents from violent lunatics "and for other purposes." Incredibly, the measure passed the Senate, but a rider McCollum wants tacked onto it called the Fugitive Apprehension Act has since raised hackles because it would authorise the Feds to read e-mail and other ISP records on a mere administrative subpoena, which does not require a warrant approved by a judge.



"The bottom line is, the so-called 'administrative subpoenas' allowed in [the rider] are not necessary for effective law enforcement, and seriously trample on privacy rights....these subpoenas can be obtained for information pertaining to a person who has only 'allegedly' committed a crime," US Representative Bob Barr (Republican, Georgia) said in a tersely-worded letter to colleagues. Nice to see someone on Capitol Hill using his head for a change.



The Child Online Protection Act (COPA) Commission declined to recommend proscriptive legislation, such as mandatory Internet filtering for public libraries which some Members have already attached to the Labor-HHS appropriations bill, on First Amendment worries. The Commissioners will deliver their final report to the nation's legislators on Saturday, and will stage a press conference later in the week to explain themselves to the man in the street, who, by all accounts (and we have no handy explanation for this), rather likes the idea of mandatory filtering.




Language which would obstruct Deutsche Telekom's bid to buy VoiceStream Wireless on concerns that the combined company would end up with too many German government officials running it has initiated a contest between US Senator Ernest Hollings (Democrat, South Carolina), who managed to attach the language to the Commerce-State-Justice appropriations bill, and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (Republican, Mississippi), who thinks it's a damn-fool notion to impede the flow of global commerce, German bureaucrats or no.




Legislation banning the sale of social security numbers on the Web, sponsored by US Senator Susan Collins (Republican, Maine) in hopes that it might curb identity theft, is being fought by the industry. "Although we commend Senator Collins on the intent of her legislation, unfortunately the language of the bill creates criminal exposure for routine communications that Internet companies perform automatically at the initiation of third-party users," the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA), WorldCom, Lycos, Yahoo! and others wrote in a letter urging Members to add liability limits that would keep unwitting accomplices off the hook for violations.




Americans believe that business does a far better job of protecting data on computer networks than the government, according to a survey by the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA). What a coincidence; that's just what the ITAA happens to believe as well. "ITAA has advocated that businesses, not the government, are best able to address security and privacy concerns through technology and expertise. It seems the American public agrees," ITAA President Harris Miller said in a long, cheery press release posted on the organisation's Web site.




The US Department of Commerce's Bureau of Export Administration published their final rule this week, and thus allowing the export of encryption products of any strength to the European Union, Australia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Japan, New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland. The new regs eliminate a 30-day waiting period which had been required of companies exporting crypto products to EU member states. Exporters will now submit a mere 'commodity classification request' enabling them to ship their products without a review by the Feds. ®

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