New Bill Incorporates Private Sector Into Terrorism Monitoring and Reporting

Internet service providers and other essential entities to the nation’s cyber-infrastructure may be required to take a more active role in terrorism prevention. A new bill aims to assimilate the private sector into the monitoring and reporting of “suspicious terrorist activity.”

 H.R 5094, also known as the ‘Enhancing Suspicious Activity Reporting Act,’ passed in the house on June 25th, 2018. The two primary purposes of the bill are to develop a strategy “to improve the operations and activities of the Department of Homeland Security related to training, outreach, and information sharing for suspicious activity reporting to prevent acts of terrorism,” and to establish a working group to “provide advice to the Secretary [of Homeland Security] regarding improvements to the operations and activities related to suspicious activity reporting to prevent acts of terrorism.”   

This includes training and outreach to entities in the private sector, and requiring the private sector to share information on suspicious targets. In theory, these provisions from law enforcement would help the private sector to quickly identify and report possible acts of terrorism.

New York representative and bill sponsor, Peter King, sits on the House Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, which also proposed the ‘Terrorism Prevention and Critical Infrastructure Protection Act of 2017’ in February. This bill also suggested that the Department of Homeland Security strengthen and protect ‘critical infrastructure’ by sharing information/training with the private sector and establishing a research task force to provide the Secretary of Homeland Security with “the cyber preparedness of suppliers, contractors, or service providers of critical infrastructure.” As several of the same committee members are backing this bill, it may be safe to assume that H.R 5094 is, simply speaking, a rework of the earlier bill, with similar intentions.

Employing the concept of terrorism prevention as a means for government collusion in the private sector has become a platitude among officials since 9-11, through the Snowden revelations and up to now. But could this be a hazardous preface for more warrantless monitoring of citizens? And furthermore, what will be the criteria for determining whether or not someone can be suspected of “terrorist activity?”

The committee report on H.R 5094 references another report titled “Preventing Another Boston Marathon Bombing: Reviewing the Lessons Learned from the 2013 Terror Attack,” in discussing the background and need for this legislation. The report specifies that educating the public and empowering them to speak out when they notice potential signs of terrorism is a long term solution for preventing events such as the Boston Bombing. It suggests that had there been stronger communication between people that could have identified Tamerlan Tsarnaev and authorities, law enforcement may have been able to apprehend Tsarnaev before he was able to take the life of MIT Police Officer Sean Collier,

“As this Committee has often highlighted, the public can be a powerful ally in identifying potential terrorist activity. Law enforcement’s ability to build a strong partnership with the
public, based on trust and transparency is crucial to obtaining information that will prevent violent attacks like Boston in the future. In order for the community to assist in preventing
terrorist attacks, it is incumbent upon the federal government to provide the public with mechanisms to facilitate communication with law enforcement and to educate them on the threat posed by homegrown violent extremists.”

But would this information be given to or taken by law enforcement? Much like HR 5094, the report on the Boston Bombing references reaching out to the private sector for the collection of useful information in preemptively striking against acts of terrorism,

“According to the Department, it has evolved its CVE [Countering Violent Extremism] strategy over recent months to become a more comprehensive prevention model that allows it to work with communities and recognize at-risk individuals before violent extremism takes root. A pilot program has been developed that encourages local partners to develop mechanisms for engaging various resources including the private sector and social service providers.”   

Participants in the pilot program, titled the Federal Joint Terrorism Task Force, include the Austin Police Department, The Texas Department of Public Safety and the University of Texas at Austin Police Department, among New York and Boston law enforcement agencies.

In April of 2017, APD, with the JTTF pilot program, apprehended Steven Boehle, after they were informed of a mass shooting plot by a “confidential human source.” Authorities discovered the presence of 13 firearms, over 1,100 rounds of ammunition and a letter that was used to determine Boehle’s plan. Though Judge Mark Lane initially released Boehle on bond, due to what he claimed to be prosecutors’ failure to prove Boehle a threat to the community and claiming that his letter was “marijuana-induced gibberish,” he was later returned to police custody.

Local Presentation on Net Neutrality

EFF-Austin President, Kevin Welch, will be discussing the importance of Net Neutrality on June, 28th, 2018.

Though a hot topic, it may help to freshen up on the who, what, when, where and why of the subject.

Who/When/Where

The idea of Net Neutrality was developed by American lawyer Tim Wu, in his 2003 paper, Net Neutrality. Since then, the FCC as adopted its principles and used them as guidance for regulating Internet Service Providers.

In 2017, FCC chairman Ajit Pai argued that Title II, another piece of legislation in the evolutionary line of Net Neutrality,  had hampered infrastructure investment. “Among our nation’s 12 largest Internet service providers, domestic broadband capital expenditures decreased by 5.6% percent, or $3.6 billion, between 2014 and 2016, the first two years of the Title II era,” he stated. “This decline is extremely unusual. It is the first time that such investment has declined outside of a recession in the Internet era.”

Pai and his cohorts proceeded to begin repealing Net Neutrality Laws that same year, thus bringing us to the ongoing battle to keep it alive.

Why

Essentially, the goal of Net Neutrality is to ensure that the internet remains a fertile grounds for innovation and growth.

Wu explains that in the habit of ignoring long-term growth ISPs have “shown a tendency” to ban new and emerging applications/network attachments, out of “suspicion or an interest in price discrimination.”

He stresses that ISP operators and prospect holders have a cognitive bias that makes it unlikely for them to come to the ‘right decisions,’ in terms of the development for the optimal path of innovation, that could minimize the excesses of innovative competition.

What

Net Neutrality is an attempt at striking a balance, as Wu states in the original paper: “To forbid broadband operators, absent of a showing of harm, from restricting what users do with their internet connection, while giving the operator general freedom to manage bandwidth consumption and other matters of local concern.”

Plain and simple, this translates to making sure that users and customers are able to continue using their service without ‘discrimination’ against their apps, programs etc, while ISPs are able to still police only their own local network.

Wu explains that ISPs have every right to police their local networks, but most importantly, that there shouldn’t be ‘restrictions’ across the ‘inter-network’.

Because of Net Neutrality regulations, we are able to freely and efficiently use the internet as the public utility that its become. Join us for our presentation, for these ideas help uphold the structure of the internet and its ability to nurture growth and development. Information on the event can be found here.

May 14th Meetup – The Tyranny Of Contract

Our speaker this month will be Christopher Brown. Christopher Brown is an Austin-based science fiction writer and technology lawyer. He is the World Fantasy Award-nominated author of Tropic of Kansas, a novel published by Harper Voyager in 2017 that Cory Doctorow called “spookily prescient…timely, dark and ultimately hopeful,” NPR described as “a modern dystopian buffet…the nightly news with the volume turned up to 11,” and Booklist said reads like “Cormac McCarthy meets Philip K. Dick.” His novel Rule of Capture, the beginning of a series of speculative legal thrillers about a criminal defense lawyer in an authoritarian USA, is forthcoming from Harper in 2019. He has taken two tech companies public as general counsel, including Austin fintech company NetSpend, led the corporate practice in the Austin office of Baker Botts, and served as a staff lawyer to the Senate Judiciary Committee, experiences he now brings to bear as a solo practitioner focused on the representation of mission-oriented start-ups.

Website: http://christopherbrown.com or brownlawatx.com

Twitter: @NB_Chris

Christopher is going to be speaking to us about the tyranny of contract, about how click-wrap agreements and NDAs have subverted the emancipatory potential of the Internet, indentured its creators, and enabled our current dystopias—and how new technologies may help us build a new paradigm. In the words of Prof. Joshua Fairfield: “If courts won’t protect consumers, robots will.”

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Join us for the discussion from 7:00PM-9:00PM, followed by drinks and camaraderie from 9:00PM-10:00PM at Firehouse Lounge (605 Brazos St).

Capital Factory is located at 701 Brazos Street, on the 16th floor of the Omni Hotel. Once on the 16th floor, there should be a sign at the front desk directing you to our meetup. If there is no sign, and no one is on duty at the desk, we are usually in the room to the left of the front desk.

Talk will be livestreamed at https://www.youtube.com/user/austintechlive

Parking for the Omni Garage can be validated at the Capital Factory front desk, reducing the cost from $16 to $5. Details: https://capitalfactory.com/parking/

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The Tyranny Of Contract

Monday, May 14, 2018, 7:00 PM

Capital Factory
701 Brazos Street Suite 150 Austin, TX

21 Activists Went

Our speaker this month will be Christopher Brown. Christopher Brown is an Austin-based science fiction writer and technology lawyer. He is the World Fantasy Award-nominated author of Tropic of Kansas, a novel published by Harper Voyager in 2017 that Cory Doctorow called “spookily prescient…timely, dark and ultimately hopeful,” NPR described as “a m…

Check out this Meetup →

https://www.facebook.com/events/170417760341121/

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