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Obama Announces Surveillance Reforms 359

In a speech today, U.S. President Barack Obama announced changes for the operations of the country's intelligence agencies. He says the current program will end "as it currently exists," though most of the data collection schemes will remain intact. However, the data collected in these sweeps will not be stored by the U.S. government, instead residing with either the communications providers or another third party. (He pointed out that storing private data within a commercial entity can have its own oversight issues, so the attorney general and intelligence officials will have to figure out the best compromise.) In order for the NSA to query the database, they will need specific approval from a national security court. Obama also announced "new oversight" to spying on foreign leaders, and an end to spying on leaders of friendly and allied countries. Further, decisions from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court will be annually reviewed for declassification. A panel advocating for citizen privacy will have input into the FISC. There will be chances to national security letters: they will no longer have an indefinite secrecy period. Companies will be able to disclose some amount of information about the NSLs they receive, something they've been asking for. Another change is a reduction in the number of steps from suspected terrorists that phone data can be gathered. Instead of grabbing all the data from people three steps away, it's now limited to two.
United States

US Government Shutdown Ends 999

An anonymous reader writes "After more than two weeks of bickering that made the schoolyard appear civilized, Congress has finally passed a bill to reopen the U.S. Federal Government. 'The Senate passed the measure by a vote of 81 - 18, followed by approval in the House by a vote of 285 - 144. The bill now goes to the President, who will make remarks on Thursday regarding the reopening of the federal government. ... Earlier in the day, Speaker Boehner conceded that the House would not vote to stop the Senate-negotiated agreement. In a statement, the Speaker said that, after a fight with President Obama over his signature health care law, " . . . blocking the bipartisan agreement reached today by the members of the Senate will not be a tactic for us." The agreement will raise the debt limit until February 2014, fund the government through January 2014 and establish a joint House-Senate committee to make spending cut decisions.' CNN adds, 'Obama, for one, didn't seem in the mood Wednesday night for more of the same -- saying politicians in Washington have to "get out of the habit of governing by crisis." "Hopefully, next time, it will not be in the 11th hour," Obama told reporters, calling for both parties to work together on a budget, immigration reform and other issues. When asked as he left the podium whether he believed America would be going through all this political turmoil again in a few months, the President didn't waste words. "No."'"

Obama Administration Refuses To Overturn Import Ban On Samsung Products 298

Chris453 writes "In August 2013, President Obama issued a veto to an import ban of the iPhone 4S after Samsung won several court battles against Apple claiming that the iPhone 4S violated several of Samsung's patents. A few months ago, Samsung was on the receiving end of a very similar case filed by Apple. The International Trade Commission decided that several of Samsung's phones (Transform, Acclaim, Indulge, and Intercept models) violated Apple's patents, and should face import bans. Despite the similarities between the two cases, the Obama administration today announced that it would not veto the International Trade Commission import ban against Samsung products. The move that could spark a trade dispute between the U.S. and South Korea."

Executive Order Grants US Gov't New Powers Over Communication Systems 513

An anonymous reader writes "President Obama has issued a new executive order: 'Assignment of National Security and Emergency Preparedness Communications Functions.' EPIC reports: 'The Executive Order grants new powers to the Department of Homeland Security, including the ability to collect certain public communications information. Under the Executive Order the White House has also granted the Department the authority to seize private facilities when necessary, effectively shutting down or limiting civilian communications.' A few key excerpts from the exec order: 'The views of all levels of government, the private and nonprofit sectors, and the public must inform the development of national security and emergency preparedness (NS/EP) [National Security/Emergency Preparedness] communications policies, programs, and capabilities. ... Sec. 5.2. The Secretary of Homeland Security shall: (a) oversee the development, testing, implementation, and sustainment of NS/EP communications, including: communications that support Continuity of Government; Federal, State, local, territorial, and tribal emergency preparedness and response communications; non-military executive branch communications systems; critical infrastructure protection networks; and non-military communications networks, particularly with respect to prioritization and restoration; .... (e) satisfy priority communications requirements through the use of commercial, Government, and privately owned communications resources, when appropriate."

Obama Administration Wants Your Old Email 639

Nemesisghost wrote to us with a story about attempts to reform the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act. Under the act, messages left on a server are considered abandoned after six months and are trivially subpoenaed by law enforcement. A group of ISPs is lobbying to extend the protections afforded to locally stored messages to messages stored on third party servers, but the Obama administration is urging Congress not to reform the law.
The Internet

White House Wants New Copyright Law Crackdown 652

An anonymous reader writes "The White House is concerned that 'illegal streaming of content' may not be covered by criminal law, saying 'questions have arisen about whether streaming constitutes the distribution of copyrighted works.' To resolve that ambiguity, it wants a new law to 'clarify that infringement by streaming, or by means of other similar new technology, is a felony in appropriate circumstances'""

Only 39% Curse At Their Computers? 286

netbuzz writes "That's what we are to believe based upon a survey of 14,284 individuals conducted by security vendor Avira. That survey found that 39 percent of respondents 'cursed or yelled at the computer out loud.' And no computer is needed to calculate the implication: 61% of those participating in the poll believe themselves to have never once uttered a profanity or raised their voice in the direction of a malfunctioning machine. Are the majority of us genuinely possessed of such remarkable self-control? Or might some of these self-reported stoics be exercising a bit of selective memory?"

Obama Nominates RIAA Lawyer For Solicitor General 463

Xiph1980 writes "President Barack Obama on Monday nominated former Recording Industry Association of America lawyer Donald Verrilli Jr. to serve as the nation's solicitor general. The solicitor general is charged with defending the government before the Supreme Court, and files friend-of-the court briefs in cases in which the government believes there is a significant legal issue. The office also determines which cases it would bring to the Supreme Court for review. Verrilli is best known for leading the recording industry's legal charge against music- and movie-sharing site Grokster. That 2003 case ultimately led to Grokster's demise when the US Supreme Court sided with the RIAA's verdict."
The Internet

Comcast-NBC Merger Approved By FCC 268

AndyAndyAndyAndy writes "It seems that the FCC has approved the proposed merger between Comcast and NBC, effectively kicking apart hopes for protection against 'pipes and their water' frameworks. Pres. Obama's 2008 goal also goes ignored: 'I strongly favor diversity of ownership of outlets and protection against the excessive concentration of power in the hands of any one corporation, interest or small group.' The Dept. of Justice is also onboard, leaving little hope that this will be stopped."
United States

Patriot Act Up For Renewal, Nobody Notices 463

Ponca City, We Love You writes "When the Patriot Act was first signed in 2001, it was billed as a temporary measure required because of the extreme circumstances created by the terrorist threat. The fear from its opponents was that executive power, once given, is seldom relinquished. Now the Examiner reports that on January 5th, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) introduced a bill to add yet another year to the soon-to-be-expiring Patriot Act, extending it until February, 2012, with passage likely to happen after little debate or contention. If passed, this would be the second time the Obama administration has punted on campaign promises to roll back excessive surveillance measures allowed under the act. Last year's extension passed under the heading of the Medicare Physician Payment Reform Act. 'Given the very limited number of days Congress has in session before the current deadline, and the fact that the bill's Republican sponsor is only seeking another year, I think it's safe to read this as signaling an agreement across the aisle to put the issue off yet again,' writes Julian Sanchez."
The Internet

Obama FCC Caves On Net Neutrality 853

An anonymous reader writes "...the rule, which will be voted on during tomorrow's FCC meeting, falls drastically short of earlier pledges by President Obama and the FCC Chairman to protect the free and open Internet. The rule is so riddled with loopholes that it's become clear that this FCC chairman crafted it with the sole purpose of winning the endorsement of AT&T and cable lobbyists, and not defending the interests of the tens of millions of Internet users."

DOJ Ramping Up Crackdown On Copyright-Infringing Sites 366

An anonymous reader writes "The Obama administration is just getting started in its mission to shut down rogue websites that illegally share copyrighted content such as movies and music. The White House's intellectual property czar, Victoria Espinel, said Monday that the Internet community should 'expect more of that' pre-emptive action as the administration ramps up its efforts to combat online copyright infringement — especially the illegal copying and sale of pharmaceutical drugs."

Obama Backs MPAA, RIAA, and ACTA 703

boarder8925 writes "In a move sure to surprise no one, Obama has come out on the side of the MPAA/RIAA and has backed the ACTA: 'We're going to aggressively protect our intellectual property,' Obama said in his speech, 'Our single greatest asset is the innovation and the ingenuity and creativity of the American people [...] It is essential to our prosperity and it will only become more so in this century. But it's only a competitive advantage if our companies know that someone else can't just steal that idea and duplicate it with cheaper inputs and labor.'"

"Atomic batteries to power, turbines to speed." -- Robin, The Boy Wonder