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ICYMI- Driving the week: Hill hearings – Sequestration’s tech targets – The future of a cyber bill – NYT on cyberattack motives

Driving the week: Hill hearings – Sequestration’s tech targets – The future of a cyber bill – NYT on cyberattack motives
Posted: March 4, 2013 9:30 AM

DRIVING THE WEEK: HILL HEARINGS — Welcome to March. Capitol Hill hasn’t exactly been a ghost town for tech watchers so far this Congress, but there also hasn’t been a ton of action that falls squarely in our wheelhouse. That changes this week. Here’s what you need to watch:

–DUELING CYBER MEETINGS: Both the upper and lower chambers have hearings lined up this week. The Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is teaming up with its Commerce counterpart to hold a joint meeting Thursday afternoon that will likely detail the cyber threat and debate the need for legislation to elaborate on the White House’s executive order. The House Homeland Security Committee has its own event set for Wednesday morning, which will look at the same set of issues — particularly how Congress’s work can support DHS in a way that, as Chairman Michael McCaul put it in a statement, “promotes U.S. commerce, while not hindering its expansion.” The Senate lawmakers haven’t finalized their panel of witnesses yet, but the House will welcome Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, as well as representatives from Centerpoint Energy, the ACLU, ITIC and the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center.

–TECH’S IMMIGRATION HEARING: Both Judiciary Committees held big-picture meetings on immigration reform in February, but the House panel’s immigration subcommittee holds a hearing Tuesday morning on exactly what tech companies want: deepening the pool of qualified employees. The hearing could be a key checkbox for proponents of high-skilled immigration reform, because even as tech businesses and many politicians have called for addressing the issue, D.C. can’t prioritize everything — and more H-1B visas hasn’t been the top bullet on very many sets of talking points. On the witness list: Officials from the American Immigration Council, Canaan Partners, ITIC and the Morrison Public Affairs Group.

–ALSO ON THE DOCKET: PATENT REFORM: The House Judiciary Committee’s hearing on patent trolls and how to stop them is set for Thursday morning. The witness list isn’t out yet, but we’ll keep you posted as the IP subcommittee’s hearing gets closer. Of note: An industry lobbyist tells us that Intellectual Ventures, a company whose patent lawsuits have drawn the ire of many in tech circles, is on the hunt for a D.C. lobbyist. An IntVen spokesman didn’t weigh in on that particular issue, but said the company is keeping its eye on the evolving patent debate and will be involved “to some degree.”

GOOD MONDAY MORNING and welcome to Morning Tech, where we’re always on the lookout for some fantasy baseball sleepers. If you play, don’t hesitate to share the intel — or, you know, some tech gossip at or @byersalex. Find the crew’s contact info below today’s Speed Read and find Pro on Twitter @POLITICOPro.

CYBER, FCC, FTC HIT BY SEQUESTRATION — The feds didn’t feel the effects of sequestration the moment those mandatory cuts went into effect at the end of last week. But absent congressional action, practically every major tech and telecom program and agency is going to be hit with steep reductions in their budgets. The Infrastructure Protection and Information Security program at the Department of Homeland Security, which plays a key role in cyberspace, is facing $91 million in cuts. The FTC is seeing a loss of about $16 million, and the FCC is bracing for an ax that’ll chop $17 million off its budget. At NTIA, sequestration cleaves $5 million from a pot of money meant for first responder communications, among other accounts, while NIST’s program for science and tech research faces a $29 million cut. (For an agency-by-agency breakdown of the cuts with explanation, view the full report:

NEW FTC CHAIRWOMAN TO TALK PRIVACY — Edith Ramirez, whom the White House is expected today to designate as the next chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission, will deliver keynote remarks at a privacy conference in Washington this Friday. The appearance will be a key opportunity for Ramirez, who’s known for her work on patents and intellectual property, to prominently address the privacy community. She’ll speak at the International Association of Privacy Professionals’ summit on Friday at 11:30 a.m.

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REP. ROGERS AND THE FUTURE OF A CYBER BILL — House Intelligence Committee leaders Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) were in San Francisco last week to pick up RSA’s 2013 excellence in public policy award, where Rogers told POLITICO he was optimistic that cyber legislation has a better shot this year. The president’s executive order was a step in the right direction and the White House appears to be more willing to have conversations about legislation — and the recent public nature of the cyber attacks apparently originating from China has helped increase the sense of urgency, Rogers said. “It feels like an Orwellian change, a nation state attacking,” he said. “That’s captured America’s imagination.”

Speaking of the bill’s timetable, Rogers said the lawmakers “are ready to move in April. We are being aggressive on the timetable. We are still making changes. We don’t think it has to be this bill or no bill.  We are bringing new members to classified briefings to explain how this works and why this is dangerous. We have been successful in closing the reality gap by speaking to privacy groups, high-tech groups. We have to have a bill that the U.S. citizen feels confident is not letting the federal government listen in on conversations.”

THE ‘WHY’ BEHIND CYBERATTACKS — The New York Times considers motives on today’s front page, looking through the lens of a U.S. energy IT company that got hacked. The question at hand: Was the Chinese government, allegedly behind the incident, “trying to plant bugs into the system so they could cut off energy supplies and shut down the power grid if the United States and China ever confronted each other in the Pacific? Or were the Chinese hackers just trolling for industrial secrets, trying to rip off the technology and pass it along to China’s own energy companies?” More on the ambiguity here:

WIRELESS COMPANIES SAY THEY’LL ‘COOPERATE’ WITH ROCKEFELLER — The Senate Commerce chairman sent letters to four top wireless companies in the U.S. on Friday, promising to make sure cramming — the inclusion of unauthorized third-party charges on someone’s phone bill — doesn’t get a strong foothold in the industry. Even as Rockefeller wrote that he was concerned wireless companies haven’t supported anti-cramming efforts, two of the four companies told MT they take the West Virginia Democrat’s concerns seriously. “Verizon takes the issue of cramming seriously; we are reviewing the letter and will cooperate,” a company spokesman said, and an AT&T spokesman said the telecom firm is going to fully cooperate with and respond to the letter: “With the massive growth of apps, music downloads, online magazines and other wireless-related purchases, our customers still very much appreciate having all charges appear on their single AT&T wireless bill.  At the same time, AT&T takes deceptive third-party billing practices such as cramming very seriously.  AT&T does not benefit from cramming — quite the opposite. Anything that harms our customers harms us and our relationship with them.  We work very hard to ensure our customers are only billed for the services they want.” Spokespeople from T-Mobile and Sprint declined to comment.

PERSONNEL MOVES: HSGAC COMMS DIRECTOR LANDS AT FAIRWINDS; ESHOO COS DEPARTS — Leslie Phillips, the former communications director on the Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee under Sen. Joe Lieberman, has a new home at IT consultancy FairWinds Partners, which specializes in domain name strategy — especially as new gTLDs come online in the next couple of months. Elsewhere, Terri Glaze, chief of staff to Rep. Anna Eshoo, has left her position. No replacement has been announced yet.

DON’T FORGET: FOR YOUR TECH PANEL RADAR — Calling all Pro subscribers: We’re hosting a tech and tax policy event this Wednesday morning. Reps. Ron Kind, Aaron Schock and Steve Womack will talk about tax reform, and ITIF’s Rob Atkinson, Best Buy’s Laura Bishop, and Tax Foundation’s Scott Hodge will help set the scene for tech as well. RSVP to

ALSO THIS WEEK: INTERNET ASSOCIATION EVENT — The new industry group holds a day of panel talks on patents, privacy and more beginning 9:30 a.m. tomorrow, featuring Sens. Ron Wyden and Chuck Schumer, as well as Reps. Steny Hoyer, Peter Roskam, Bob Goodlatte, Zoe Lofgren and others. More here: