New to the art form? This Wall Street Journal article will get you orientated. Also, for more information on how some of these titles mislead lawmakers and the citizenry, find some academic commentary from Brian Christopher Jones here:

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Honoring Aaron Swartz

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D., CA) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D., OR) introduced Aaron's Law Act of 2013, in honor of Aaron Swartz. Lofgren and Wyden contend that the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which the bill would amend, is too vague and could potentially criminalize innocent internet activity.  At the time of his death the software developer/internet activist was under investigation by the Justice Department for his downloading of academic articles from the database JSTOR. 

Partial press release below the jump. 


Rep Zoe Lofgren Introduces Bipartisan Aaron's Law

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), along with Reps. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Mike Doyle (R-PA), Yvette Clarke (D-NY) and Jared Polis (D-CO), have introduced H.R. 2454, the Aaron's Law Act of 2013. Named in honor of the late Internet innovator and activist Aaron Swartz, the bipartisan legislation would reform the quarter-century old Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) to work for the digital age. Swartz's passing in January spotlighted serious problems with the vague wording of the CFAA. Among those concerns is how the law treats violations of terms of service, employer agreements, or website notices.
"Reform of the CFAA is necessary," Rep. Lofgren said. "I hope this bipartisan bill will lead to the reforms that are needed for the good of the country."
Aaron's Law refocuses the CFAA away from common computer and Internet activity and back towards targeting damaging hacks, as originally intended. By establishing a clear line that is needed in the law, it distinguishes the difference between common online activities and harmful attacks. Specifically the legislation:
  • Establishes that mere breach of terms of service, employment agreements, or contracts are not automatic violations of the CFAA. By using legislative language based closely on recent important 9th and 4th Circuit Court opinions, the bill would instead define 'access without authorization' under the CFAA as gaining unauthorized access to information by circumventing technological or physical controls – such as password requirements, encryption, or locked office doors. Hack attacks such as phishing, injection of malware or keystroke loggers, denial-of-service attacks, and viruses would continue to be fully prosecutable under strong CFAA provisions this bill does not modify.
  • Brings balance back to the CFAA by eliminating a redundant provision that enables an individual to be punished multiple times through duplicate charges for the same solitary violation. Eliminating the redundant provision streamlines the law, but would not create a gap in protection against hackers.
  • Brings greater proportionality to CFAA penalties. Currently, the CFAA's penalties are tiered, and prosecutors have wide discretion to ratchet up the severity of the penalties in several circumstances, leaving little room for non-felony charges under CFAA (i.e., charges with penalties carrying less than a year in prison). The bill ensures prosecutors cannot seek to inflate sentences by stacking multiple charges under the CFAA, including state law equivalents or non-criminal violations of the law.

Cornyn Borrows DeMint's "A-Plus" Acronym

Sen. John Cornyn (R., TX) has introduced the A-PLUS (Academic Partnerships Lead Us to Success) Act of 2013, which according to his press release, would "reduce the administrative and compliance burdens on state and local education agencies, and ensure greater public transparency for the use of federal education funds and student achievement." The measure is ultimately a way for states to opt-out of the burdensome No Child Left Behind Act, which has become increasingly mocked by both Republicans and Democrats. In fact, our sister site,, yesterday wrote about two potential acts from the House and Senate that could replace NCLB. 

The A-PLUS designation by Sen. Cornyn is not as innovative as it looks, however. Former South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint used the acronym for legislation in the 110th, 111th, and 112th Congresses, but his bills never got out of committee.  

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

LIBERT-E and Justice for All

In response to recent revelations regarding the extent of NSA surveillance, Rep. John Conyers (D., MI) and Rep. Justin Amash (R., MI) have introduced the LIBERT-E (Limiting Internet and Blanket Electronic Review of Telecommunications and Email) Act. According to a press release by Rep. Amash, the bill "restricts the federal government’s ability under the Patriot Act to collect information on Americans who are not connected to an ongoing investigation. The bill also requires that secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court opinions be made available to Congress and summaries of the opinions be made available to the public."

The measure currently has 32 co-sponsors consisting of both Republicans and Democrats. Partial press release included below. 


SNA Surveillance: Amash, Conyers Introduce Major Bill

Jun 18, 2013 Issues: Defense and National Security
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                      
June 18, 2013     
Will Adams
NSA Surveillance: Amash, Conyers Introduce Major Bill 
Bipartisan Coalition of 34 Members of Congress Propose LIBERT-E Act
Washington, D.C. – Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), Chairman of the House Liberty Caucus, and Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), the Ranking Member on the House Judiciary Committee, announced the introduction of bipartisan legislation to address National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance.
H.R. 2399, the Limiting Internet and Blanket Electronic Review of Telecommunications and Email Act (LIBERT-E Act), restricts the federal government’s ability under the Patriot Act to collect information on Americans who are not connected to an ongoing investigation. The bill also requires that secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court opinions be made available to Congress and summaries of the opinions be made available to the public.
A coalition of 32 Members of Congress joined Conyers and Amash in introducing the bill late Monday. After introduction, Conyers and Amash issued the following statement:
“The recent NSA leaks indicate that the federal government collects phone records and intercepts electronic communications on a scale previously unknown to most Americans.
“The LIBERT-E Act imposes reasonable limits on the federal government’s surveillance. The bill puts some teeth into the FISA court’s determination of whether records the government wants are actually relevant to an investigation. It also makes sure that innocent Americans’ information isn’t needlessly swept up into a government database. LIBERT-E prohibits the type of government dragnet that the leaked Verizon order revealed. ...

Monday, June 17, 2013

Derailing Immigration Bill Through "Secur[ing] the Vote"

Just hours after the Supreme Court struck down an Arizona law that required voters to prove their citizenship in lieu of federal forms, Senator Ted Cruz (R., TX) and Rand Paul (R., KY) promised to tack an amendment to the immigration bill currently traveling through the Senate. Given that it's such a controversial and difficult issue to address on both sides, any change to the measure at this point could be fatal. Late in the day, Sen. Paul announced his "Secure the Vote" amendment, which provides more checks that individuals are citizens before they are allowed to vote. The amendment has the potential to derail the legislation if accepted into the bill.

Update: Senator Cruz has now filed an amendment with Senator Vitter (R., LA) attempting to negate the preemption doctrine that national laws have precedence over state laws in terms of voting registration. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Abortion Back in the Limelight

Rep. Trent Franks (R., AZ) has introduced the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would prohibit "abortion[s] from being performed if the probable post-fertilization age of the unborn child is 20 weeks or greater." The measure was recently approved by the House Judiciary Committee (20-12), and will now be considered by the entire House. The theory of whether or not fetuses of 20 weeks can actually feel pain is disputed. Democrats have also criticized the measure for not having an exception for rape victims.   

Mr. Franks introduced similar legislation in the 112th Congress that failed the House. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

An Amendment Seeking RESULTS

Sen. John Cornyn (R., TX) recently introduced an amendment to the Senate immigration bill, S.744, called the RESULTS (Requiring Enforcement, Security and safety, & Upgrading Legitimate Trade and travel Simultaneously) Amendment. Essentially, it is an attempt to make the Senate legislation, currently titled the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, more appealing to Republicans. In addition to the RESULTS acronym, the four point plan is littered with evocative language: 100% Situational Awareness, Full Operational Control, Biometric Exit System, and Nationwide E-Verify System. Mr. Cornyn even took to the Dallas Morning News to introduce his Amendment and state why the current legislation is bad for the nation and especially Texas, noting, "the bill would actually make it harder for us to prevent visa overstays, even though such overstays account for nearly half of all illegal immigrants living in the United States. It would also allow violent criminals to gain immediate legal status; it would prevent law enforcement from sharing information; and it would do absolutely nothing to bolster infrastructure and personnel at U.S. ports of entry along the southern border."