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Bill Nelson Opening Statement

I want to thank Chairman Fischer and Ranking Member Peters for holding this hearing about current and emerging threats to our nation’s surface transportation networks from terrorist attacks. 

A series of attacks over the last year or so – from attacks in London and Barcelona to those right here in the U.S. – have rung the alarm bell. We cannot be content.  

Transportation remains a very real target for terrorists and those wishing to do harm.   

This committee has heard that call.  In 2016, we passed the Airport Security Enhancement and Oversight Act.  In doing so, we took important steps to prevent insider threats to our aviation system. We increased random physical screenings and covert, red-team testing. 

In addition, we have the TSA Modernization Act, which expands the use of explosive detection canines, continues efforts to expand the TSA PreCheck program and expedites deployment of security screening technology. 

And while these steps are critical, the threat is ever changing. This is evidenced by the TSA’s announcement that flights originating from the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Qatar to the United States will undergo enhanced cargo screening. 

As we have discussed previously in this committee, I am concerned that our current strategy does not address the vulnerabilities we face today.

Recent incidents and the attempted attack at the New York City transit station highlight the challenges we continue to face.

We must continue to address deficiencies to secure our rail, transit, port and freight transportation systems.  

I believe it’s time to reexamine our transportation security strategy and refocus our efforts. 

We also need to provide sufficient funding to meet these challenges.

We cannot cut programs that help our communities prepare for and respond to threats. 

And we need transit and port grants to help agencies improve their security infrastructure. 

I want to thank the witnesses for coming today and I look forward to hearing from you on these issues. 

U.S. Supreme Court Agrees to Review Endangered Species Act Case

WLF Legal Pulse - Mon, 01/22/2018 - 12:15pm
Can the U.S. government designate a private landowner’s property as “critical habitat” for a threatened or endangered species if the species does not currently inhabit the land and could not do so unless the property owner agrees to modifications of his land? The U.S. Supreme Court agreed this morning to address those questions by granting …

Continue reading U.S. Supreme Court Agrees to Review Endangered Species Act Case

Categories: Latest News

Committee Announces Hearing to Examine Emergency Alert Systems

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will convene a hearing titled, “This is Not a Drill: An Examination of Emergency Alert Systems,” at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018. The hearing will examine the policy concerns surrounding the use and effectiveness of Emergency Alert Systems including Wireless Emergency Alerts, as well as recent system failures, including but not limited to the mistaken missile alert in Hawaii. Additionally, at the request of Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), ranking member of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, the committee intends to hold a future field hearing in Hawaii to focus specifically on the missile system alert failure that occurred Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018. 

Witnesses:

  • Ms. Lisa M. Fowlkes, Bureau Chief, Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, Federal Communications Commission
  • Mr. Scott Bergmann, Senior Vice President, CTIA – The Wireless Association
  • Mr. Sam Matheny, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, National Association of Broadcasters

*Witness list subject to change

Hearing Details:

Thursday, January 25, 2018
10:00 a.m.

This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.

Senate Commerce Democratic Subcommittee Assignments Announced

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the ranking member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, today announced ranking member and subcommittee assignments for Democratic committee members following Sen. Jon Tester’s replacement of Sen. Cory Booker on the committee.  Sen. Gary Peters will now become the ranking member of the Surface Transportation Subcommittee, while Sen. Tammy Baldwin is set to assume that role on the Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard Subcommittee. 

The subcommittee and ranker assignments are as follows (changes in red):

Aviation Operations, Safety and Security                     

 

1.         Ranking – Maria Cantwell, Wash.

2.         Amy Klobuchar, Minn. 

3.         Richard Blumenthal, Conn. 

4.         Brian Schatz, Hawaii 

5.         Edward J. Markey, Mass. 

6.         Tom Udall, N.M. 

7.         Gary Peters, Mich. 

8.         Tammy Baldwin, WI

9.         Tammy Duckworth, IL

10.       Maggie Hassan, NH

11.       Jon Tester, MT

 

Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet         

 

1.         Ranking – Brian Schatz, Hawaii

2.         Maria Cantwell, Wash.  

3.         Amy Klobuchar, Minn.

4.         Richard Blumenthal, Conn.  

5.         Edward J. Markey, Mass.

6.         Tom Udall, N.M. 

7.         Gary Peters, Mich.

8.         Tammy Baldwin, WI

9.         Tammy Duckworth, IL

10.       Maggie Hassan, NH

11.       Catherine Cortez Masto, NV 

12.       Jon Tester, MT

 

Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance and Data Security             

 

1.         Ranking – Richard Blumenthal, Conn.

2.         Amy Klobuchar, Minn. 

3.         Edward J. Markey, Mass. 

4.         Tom Udall, N.M.

5.         Tammy Duckworth, IL

6.         Maggie Hassan, NH

7.         Catherine Cortez Masto, NV 

 

Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard 

 

1.         Ranking – Tammy Baldwin, WI 

2.         Maria Cantwell, Wash. 

3.         Richard Blumenthal, Conn.

4.         Brian Schatz, Hawaii 

5.         Edward J. Markey, Mass.

6.         Gary Peters, Mich. 

 

Space, Science, and Competitiveness          

 

1.         Ranking –  Edward J. Markey, Mass.

2.         Brian Schatz, Hawaii       

3.         Tom Udall, N.M.          

4.         Gary Peters, Mich. 

5.         Tammy Baldwin, WI

6.         Maggie Hassan, NH

 

Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security                                          

 

1.         Ranking – Gary Peters, Mich.

2.         Maria Cantwell, Wash. 

3.         Amy Klobuchar, Minn.      

4.         Richard Blumenthal, Conn.  

5.         Tom Udall, N.M.

6.         Tammy Baldwin, WI

7.         Tammy Duckworth, IL

8.         Maggie Hassan, NH

USDA Announces Public Meetings and Request for Comments on National Organic Standards

Office of Advocacy - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 7:10pm

On January 17, 2018, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) announced public meetings of the National Organic Standards Board, and a request for comments on the board’s agenda items including development of organic standards, substances petitioned for addition or deletion from the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances, and guidance on organic policies. In addition to accepting written comments, AMS will also hold two webinars on April 17 and 19, 2018 and in-person meetings on April 25 and 26, 2018.

Categories: Latest News, SBA Advocate

Senate Commerce Approves Presidential Nominations

WASHINGTON – The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation today, approved presidential nominations subject to Senate confirmation.

Nominations considered are as follows:

1.       Nomination of Leon A. Westmoreland, of Georgia, to be a Director of the Amtrak Board of Directors for a term of five years (agreed by roll call vote: 14-13)

2.       Nomination of Barry Lee Myers, of Pennsylvania, to be Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere (agreed by roll call vote: 14-13)

3.       Nomination of Diana Furchtgott-Roth, of Maryland, to be an Assistant Secretary of Transportation (agreed by roll call vote: 14-13)

4.       Nomination of Brendan Carr, of Virginia, to be a Member of the Federal Communications Commission for a term of five years from July 1, 2018 (agreed by roll call vote: 14-13)

5.       Nomination of Ann Marie Buerkle, of New York, to be Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), (agreed by voice vote)

6.       Nomination of Ann Marie Buerkle, of New York, and to be a Commissioner of the CPSC for a term of seven years (agreed by roll call vote: 14-13)

7.       Nomination of James Bridenstine, of Oklahoma, to be Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (agreed by roll call vote: 14-13)

8.       Nomination of Dana Baiocco, of Ohio, to be a Commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission for a term of seven years from October 27, 2017 (agreed by roll call vote: 14-13)

<p>Good morning.&nbsp; Thank you all

Good morning.  Thank you all for being here for our first executive session of 2018.  I appreciate everyone’s attendance at today’s markup, which is basically a housekeeping exercise as we consider seven nominees for the second time this Congress.

Each of the nominees we are considering today has previously been reported favorably out of Committee, several of them quite recently. 

For instance, Barry Myers, nominated to be NOAA Administrator, was reported favorably by the Committee just last month.  Similarly, the nomination of James Bridenstine to lead NASA and the appointments of Dana Baiocco to CPSC, Diana Furchtgott-Roth to DOT, and Lynn Westmoreland to the Amtrak Board of Directors were all favorably reported in November. 

Nonetheless, some have seen fit to engage in delay tactics and we must once again vote to report these nominations in order for them to be available for consideration by the full Senate. 

To be clear, each nominee we will consider today has been thoroughly vetted and had a hearing before this Committee. 

In fact, two of the nominees, Brendan Carr and Ann Marie Buerkle, are re-nominations who have previously been confirmed, by voice vote, by the full Senate.

And all of these nominees are well qualified.  Even a quick rundown of the nominees’ extensive resumes is quite impressive –   

Leon Westmoreland, nominated to join the Amtrak Board of Directors, is a former Congressman and House T&I member with a strong record of support for infrastructure and transportation;

Barry Lee Myers, the President’s pick to head NOAA, has dedicated his entire career to the weather forecasting enterprise, running Accuweather;

Diana Furchtgott-Roth, has had a distinguished academic career, which will serve her well as Assistant Secretary of Transportation for Research;

Brendan Carr, a long serving attorney at the FCC and current Commissioner who is being re-nominated to a full term;

Ann Marie Buerkle, a former Member of Congress who has a strong record at the CPSC and is currently serving as Acting Chairman, is being nominated to be Chairman and for another term;

James Bridenstine, a current member of Congress who has been a leader on space policy, as well as a pilot and a decorated veteran, has been tapped to be NASA Administrator; and

Dana Baiocco, nominated to be a CPSC Commissioner, has a distinguished legal career that has focused on consumer product and safety issues.

It is my hope that this will be the final time this Committee must consider these nominees and that the Senate will act on their nominations as soon as possible.  The agencies, commissions, and boards to which they have been nominated would be well served by having these leaders in place early this year. 

With that, I will turn to Senator Nelson for any opening remarks.  

Executive Session

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will hold an executive session on Thursday, January 18, 2018 at 11:00 a.m. in Hart 216 to consider the following presidential nominations.

Click here for additional information on nominees.

Agenda:

1.       Nomination of Leon A. Westmoreland, of Georgia, to be a Director of the Amtrak Board of Directors for a term of five years

2.       Nomination of Barry Lee Myers, of Pennsylvania, to be Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere

3.       Nomination of Diana Furchtgott-Roth, of Maryland, to be an Assistant Secretary of Transportation

4.       Nomination of Brendan Carr, of Virginia, to be a Member of the Federal Communications Commission for a term of five years from July 1, 2018

5.       Nomination of Ann Marie Buerkle, to be Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and to be a Commissioner of the CPSC for a term of seven years

6.       Nomination of James Bridenstine, of Oklahoma, to be Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

7.       Nomination of Dana Baiocco, of Ohio, to be a Commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission for a term of seven years from October 27, 2017


*Agenda subject to change

Executive Session Details:
 
Thursday, January 18, 2018
11:00 a.m.
Full Committee Markup
Senate Hart Building 216
 
A live video of the markup and additional information will be available at www.commerce.senate.gov.

The Supreme Court’s “American Express” Antitrust Case: What’s at Stake

WLF Legal Pulse - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 10:56am
Featured Expert Column: Antitrust & Competition Policy — U.S. Department of Justice By Anthony W. Swisher, a Partner in the Washington, DC office of Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLP. With the New Year comes the opportunity to consider the cases to the U.S. Supreme Court will hear in the second half of its October Term …

Continue reading The Supreme Court’s “American Express” Antitrust Case: What’s at Stake

Categories: Latest News

Ranking Member Bill Nelson Opening Statement

Mr. Chairman, I won’t take much time, but I think it’s important to highlight continued concerns about a few of these nominees. 

The first is the nomination of Congressman Jim Bridenstine to serve as NASA administrator. The facts on this nomination have not changed:  Congressman Bridenstine has no experience managing a large organization or program, no background in science or engineering, and a history of political divisiveness. 

NASA is facing one of the most challenging periods in its history. With the lives of astronauts and the very future of the space program on the line, now more than ever, the agency needs a unifying and qualified space professional at the helm. 

Robert Lightfoot is doing an outstanding job running the agency and the agency is humming along with no signs of slowing down. And I can confirm, having been with the president at the White House when he signed his space policy directive last month, that the administration isn’t slowing their plans for NASA either. Indeed, they are moving forward under Lightfoot’s very capable leadership.

It appears that the votes aren’t there to confirm Congressman Bridenstine. It is my hope that, sooner rather than later, we can move on to a qualified candidate who could quickly be confirmed with broad support from both sides of the aisle, as has traditionally been the case for the NASA administrator.  

The other nominee I feel compelled to mention is Barry Myers to serve as NOAA’s administrator. Mr. Myers has undoubtedly been very successful running AccuWeather.

But that is also the very crux of the problem with Mr. Myers’ nomination:  the fact that he will be running an agency that directly impacts a family business. 

Nothing will prevent Mr. Myers from buying back his share of the family business when he leaves government. 

The former director of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter Shaub, said these circumstances create “a significant unaddressed and largely unregulated conflict of interest.”

So, I asked Mr. Myers to put these concerns to rest by agreeing to recuse himself from all NOAA matters that he knows will directly impact the fortunes of AccuWeather.

Mr. Myers declined to sign this supplemental agreement.

Overall, it is unfortunate that we are here considering this same group of folks again. I hope that in the future, the administration will work with us to find nominees that can unify us and provide the leadership these agencies need.

Engaging Energy: Small Business Resources at the Department of Energy

House Small Business Committee News - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 10:00am

The Committee on Small Business Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy, and Trade will meet for a hearing titled, “Engaging Energy: Small Business Resources at the Department of Energy.” The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10:00 A.M. on Thursday, January 18, 2018 in Room 2360 of the Rayburn House Office Building

The Subcommittee will examine the resources available to small businesses in the energy sector through the Department of Energy.  This hearing will analyze the degree to which these programs are effective at minimizing confusion regarding participation in the federal contracting process and department-specific small business programs.

Attachments
1. Hearing Notice
2. Witness List

Witness
Mr. Charles R. Smith
Director
Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization
United States Department of Energy
Washington, DC

Chairman Chabot Says New Tax Withholding Guidance A Win For Small Business Employees

House Small Business Committee News - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON – Today, House Committee on Small Business Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) released the following statement in response to the Treasury Department’s announcement of updated tax withholding tables following the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act: 

“We continue to see positive steps as a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  The IRS update of the withholding tables is another example of the law delivering for hardworking small business employees. This is in addition to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which ensures small businesses are treated equally by providing a 20 percent deduction on qualified small business income."

Tax withholding tables assist in calculating the amount of tax to withhold from employees’ paychecks. 

Click HERE for additional information about the new tax withholding tables.  

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Engaging Energy: How the Energy Department is Helping Small Businesses

House Small Business Committee News - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON—Today, Subcommittee Chairman Rod Blum (R-IA) and the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Energy, and Trade heard from Charles R. Smith, the Director of the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) at the United States Department of Energy (DOE).

“Small businesses are integral to the success of the DOE mission and the energy industry; however, the high cost and high technology required in the energy field often leaves small businesses struggling to compete with large corporations,” said Subcommittee Chairman Rod Blum.

“Today’s hearing [addressed] the ways in which DOE is working to minimize the barriers that often exclude small businesses from succeeding in the energy field and highlight the resources the agency offers to small businesses looking to participate in the federal contracting process.”

Energizing Small Businesses: Resources at the Department of Energy

“My focus during my time with this Department is to not only continue to meet our prime contracting and subcontracting goals, but also the subcategory goals like Woman-owned, HUBZone, Service Disabled Veteran and 8(a) disadvantaged owned businesses,” said Director Smith.

While DOE is anticipated to meet its prime small business contracting goal prior to the end of the fiscal year, the Department is currently underperforming in its subcategory goals.  This issue, a concern of the Committee, led Mr. Blum to question, “Is there a plan in place? [Earlier] you said we’re hitting the numbers for the small businesses, but missing the numbers in the subcategories—so, is there a plan in place, or not? If so, can you provide that plan to this Committee?”

Beyond the federal contracting process, the DOE maintains a number of programs aimed at assisting small businesses with navigating the federal contracting process, producing and developing energy products, and competing in the energy industry. Many of these programs are run through the DOE OSDBU. Director Smith laid out an array of resources that the Department of Energy offers for small businesses:

  • DOE hosts an annual Small Business Forum & Expo, connecting small business attendees with DOE offices, power administrations, prime contractors and subcontractors.
  • The DOE Mentor-Protégé Program (MPP) encourages seasoned contractors to provide business development and sub-contracting opportunities to small businesses interested in partnering with the Department.
  • The Small Business Vouchers program (SBV) allows eligible small businesses to tap into the reserve of national laboratory intellectual and technical assets to overcome critical technology and commercialization challenges.
  • The Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) program provides the nuclear community with access to technical, regulatory, and financial support. GAIN hosts workshops discussing regulatory review processes, licensing processes, industry consensus standards and Quality Assurance Program development.

Strengthening SBA’s 7(a) Loan Program

House Small Business Committee News - Thu, 01/18/2018 - 12:00am

WASHINGTON—Today, Chairman Steve Chabot (R-OH) and the Committee on Small Business heard from a panel of key stakeholders about the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) 7(a) Loan Program and  H.R. 4743, the Small Business 7(a) Lending Oversight Reform Act of 2018.

 “The economy is improving. Treasury numbers are moving in the right direction. The tax reform law is being implemented. However, we continue to see that lending and borrowing remain flat. This becomes more acute for the nation’s smallest firms.” said Chairman Chabot. “As a result of multiple hearings, meetings, and briefings, I, along with the Ranking Member and our Senate counterparts introduced H.R. 4743, the Small Business 7(a) Lending Oversight Reform Act of 2018.”

What the Stakeholders Said:

The 7(a) Loan Program is the SBA’s largest lending program, and because lenders are charged fees to run the program and cover any losses, it currently runs on zero-cost to American taxpayers. Newly introduced, H.R. 4743 is bicameral and bipartisan legislation aimed at ensuring the integrity of the program, while bringing stability to small businesses that truly require the services of SBA. 

While community banking organizations represent 17 percent of all U.S. bank assets, we make more than half of all small business loans under $1 million,” said Cindy Blankenship, Vice Chairman of Bank of the West in Grapevine, TX, testifying on behalf of the Independent Community Bankers of America. “What sets community banks apart is their first-hand knowledge of the borrower, the community, and the local economy. Community bank small business lending simply cannot be duplicated by a bank based outside the community.”

“American Bankers Association (ABA) applauds Chairman Chabot and Ranking Member Velazquez for their leadership in working with their Senate counterparts,” noted Patricia Husic, President and CEO of Centric Financial Corporation in Harrisburg, PA, testifying on behalf of ABA. “This long overdue bill will strengthen the SBA’s oversight office and provide the Administrator with flexibility to increase the program’s maximum lending authority in the event it would be reached. The bill helps ensure the strength of the program into the future.”

“Overall, we believe this is a solid legislative package and would urge the Committee to support and advance this legislation in a timely fashion,” said Sonya McDonald, Executive Vice President and Chief Lending Officer at Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union in Universal City, TX, testifying on behalf of the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions.

“There has been great care taken by this Committee to approach this issue with diligence and as the CEO of the SBA 7(a) industry’s trade association for the last thirty years, I can tell you honestly that your careful approach to this matter is a rarity in the history of this program and incredibly appreciated,” stated Anthony Wilkinson, President and CEO of the National Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders. “As Chairman Chabot has stated in front of this Committee in the past, this program should supplement the markets, not supplant them.”

Click here to watch full hearing video, and here to read full witness testimony.

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Strengthening SBA’s 7(a) Loan Program

House Small Business Committee News - Wed, 01/17/2018 - 11:00am

The Committee on Small Business will meet for a hearing titled, “Strengthening SBA’s 7(a) Loan Program.”  The hearing will take place at 11:00 A.M. on Wednesday, January 17, 2018 in Room 2360 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

The hearing will examine the United States Small Business Administration’s (SBA) 7(a) Loan Program and how changes proposed in H.R. 4743, the Small Business 7(a) Lending Oversight Reform Act of 2018, could strengthen oversight and bolster the integrity of the program for small businesses and American taxpayers.  

Attachments
1. Hearing Notice
2. Witness List

Witnesses
Ms. Cindy Blankenship
Vice Chairman
Bank of the West
Grapevine, TX
* Testifying on behalf of the Independent Community Bankers of America

Ms. Patricia Husic
President & CEO
Centric Financial Corporation
Harrisburg, PA
*Testifying on behalf of the American Bankers Association

Ms. Sonya McDonald
Executive Vice President and Chief Lending Officer
Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union
Universal City, TX
* Testifying on behalf of the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions

Mr. Tony Wilkinson
President & CEO
National Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders
Washington, DC

Terrorism and Social Media: #IsBigTechDoingEnough?

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing titled “Terrorism and Social Media: #IsBigTechDoingEnough?” at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, January 17, 2018. The hearing will examine the steps social media platforms are taking to combat the spread of extremist propaganda over the Internet.

Witnesses:

  • Ms. Monika Bickert, Head of Global Policy Management, Facebook
  • Ms. Juniper Downs, Global Head of Public Policy and Government Relations, YouTube
  • Mr. Carlos Monje, Director, Public Policy and Philanthropy, Twitter

Hearing Details:

Wednesday, January 17, 2018
10:00 a.m.
Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.

Ranking Member Nelson Opening Statement

This hearing marks the first time that the Commerce Committee has had the three largest social media companies testify before us.  And their appearance is long overdue.  These social media platforms – and those of many other smaller companies – have revolutionized the way Americans communicate, connect and share information. 

But, at the same time, these platforms have created a new – and stunningly effective – way for nefarious actors to attack and harm our citizens and our nation.  Frankly, it is startling that today, a terrorist can be radicalized and trained to conduct attacks all through social media.  And then a terrorist cell can activate that individual to conduct an attack through the internet – creating in effect a terrorist drone controlled by social media.

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses about what their companies are doing to make sure their platforms are not being exploited and manipulated by terrorists and criminals.

Using social media to radicalize and influence users is not limited to extremists.  Nation states, too, are exploiting social media vulnerabilities to conduct campaigns against this nation and interfere with our democracy. 

We know that Russian hackers—at Vladimir Putin’s direction—attempted to influence the 2016 presidential election through cyberattacks and spreading propaganda and disinformation through paid social media trolls and botnets on Facebook and Twitter.

And, we also know that Putin is likely to do it again. 

In its January 6, 2017 assessment, the U.S. intelligence community said that Putin and his intelligence services see the election influence campaign as a success and will seek to influence future elections, right here in the United States, and abroad.  

This should be a wake-up call to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and to all Americans, regardless of party. This was an attack on the very foundation of American democracy and we must do everything in our power to see that it never happens again.

Mr. Watts, we welcome your expertise in understanding how bad actors like Russia use the internet and social media to influence not just our elections, but other aspects of American life. Everything from what we see and buy online, what we know to be true, and how we keep our families safe.

We even know that Putin is reaching down deep into our government.  For example, as part of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) net neutrality proceeding, about 500,000 comments were traced to Russian IP addresses.  That’s equally shocking and concerning – we should want to know why these comments were filed.  And all of us should be very concerned about what will happen next.

In the end, I have several basic questions for our witnesses:  what have we learned about how the Russians attacked us?  What have social media companies done to assess this threat, both individually and collectively? What have they done to address this threat?  And what more do they need to do to be ready for the future?

<p>Good morning.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p>

Good morning.  

I want to thank everyone for being here to examine what social media companies are doing to combat terrorism – including terrorist propaganda and terrorist recruitment efforts – online. 

The positive contributions of social media platforms are well documented.

YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, among others, help to connect people around the world, give voice to those oppressed by totalitarian regimes, and provide a forum for discussions of every political, social, scientific, and cultural stripe. 

These services have thrived online because of the freedom made possible by the uniquely American guarantee of free speech, and by a light touch regulatory policy. 

But, as is so often the case, enemies of our way of life have sought to take advantage of our freedoms to advance hateful causes.  

Violent Islamic terrorist groups like ISIS have been particularly aggressive in seeking to radicalize and recruit over the internet and various social media platforms. 

The companies that our witnesses represent have a very difficult task:  preserving the environment of openness upon on which their platforms have thrived, while seeking to responsibly manage and thwart the actions of those who would use their services for evil. 

We are here today to explore how they are doing that, what works, and what could be improved. 

Instances of Islamic terrorists using social media platforms to organize, instigate, and inspire are well documented. 

For example, the killer responsible for the Orlando nightclub shooting – in which 49 innocent people were murdered, and 53 were injured – was reportedly inspired by digital material that was readily available on social media. 

And this issue is not new. 

Over the course of several years, YouTube hosted hundreds of videos by senior al-Qaeda recruiter Anwar al-Awlaki.

Although the company promised in 2010 to remove all videos that advocated violence, al-Awlaki’s “Call to Jihad” video, in which he advocates for western Muslims to carry out attacks at home, remained on the site for years.  

In fact, a New York Times report suggested that al-Awlaki videos influenced the Fort Hood terrorist, the Boston Marathon bombers, and the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino and Orlando.

This issue is also international in scope. 

In response to recent terror attacks in London, British Prime Minister Theresa May has been especially outspoken in calling on social media platforms to do more to combat the kind of radicalization that occurs online. 

Last fall, for example, she was joined by other European leaders in calling upon social media companies to remove terrorist content from their sites within one to two hours after it appears.     

As we’ll hear today, the companies before us are increasingly using technology to speed up their efforts to identify and neutralize the spread of terrorist content.  

In a recent blog post, Facebook said that Artificial Intelligence now removes 99 percent of ISIS and Al-Qaeda related terror content even before it can be flagged by a member of the community, and sometimes even before it can be seen by any users.

 

 

YouTube is also teaming up with Jigsaw, the in-house think tank of Google’s parent company Alphabet, to test a new method of counter-radicalization referred to as the “Redirect Method.”   

Seeking to “redirect” or re-focus potential terrorists at an earlier stage in the radicalization process, YouTube offers users searching for specific terrorist information additional videos made specifically to deter them from becoming radicalized. 

A little over a year ago, Facebook, YouTube, Microsoft, and Twitter committed to sharing a database of unique “hashes” and “digital fingerprints” of some of the most extreme terrorist-produced content used for influence or recruitment.   

By cross-sharing this information, terrorist content on each of the hosts’ platforms will be more readily identified, hopefully resulting in  faster and more efficient deletion of this material.  

Essentially, these companies are claiming they can tag individual videos and photos and, using automation, can kick them off their platforms before they are ever seen. 

We all have a vested interest in their success, and I believe this Committee has a significant role to play in overseeing the effectiveness of their efforts.

I want to thank Ms. Bickert, Ms. Downs, and Mr. Monje for being here as representatives of their companies.

To Mr. Watts, I look forward to hearing your thoughts about disrupting and defeating terrorism.

I now recognize the Ranking Member for any opening statement he may have.

Committee Announces Hearing to Examine Surface Transportation Security

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security, will convene a hearing titled, “Surface Transportation Security: Addressing Current and Emerging Threats,” at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, January 23, 2018. The hearing will examine efforts to enhance surface transportation security including passenger and freight rail, mass transit, highways, and ports.

Witnesses:

  • The Honorable David Pekoske, Administrator, Transportation Security Administration
  • Mr. John Kelly, Acting Inspector General, Department of Homeland Security

Hearing Details:

Tuesday, January 23, 2018
2:30 p.m.
Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security

This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.

Restate or Rewrite?: Stark Choice Faces ALI Leaders on Liability Insurance Law Project

WLF Legal Pulse - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 9:58am
The debate over the American Law Institute’s (ALI) still ongoing Restatement of the Law: Liability Insurance (RLLI) project the mythical struggles of Sisyphus. Since 2015, when ALI—in unprecedented fashion—shifted the venture from an aspirational “Principles Project” to a Restatement, stakeholders and a growing number of third parties concerned with the project’s direction have been pushing …

Continue reading Restate or Rewrite?: Stark Choice Faces ALI Leaders on Liability Insurance Law Project

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