US Congress quietly slips cloud-spying powers into page 2,201 of spending mega-bill

House OKs email slurp rules, Senate stalled


Updated For months now, US Congress has mulled new laws to strengthen Feds' powers to access American citizens' private messages and files stored on computers overseas.

Now, rather than actually debate and refine such legislation, lawmakers have decided to tack it onto the massive 2018 Omnibus Spending Bill [PDF] and seek to pass it by the backdoor.

The 2,232-page document covers $1.3tr in government spending from now until September and, if passed, we'll avoid a federal shutdown this weekend. Despite the fact the bill was only unveiled on Wednesday evening, the House of Representatives passed it on Thursday afternoon by 256-167 votes. Now, it's over to the Senate to approve before it gets the OK from President Trump.

Buried on page 2,201 of the bill is the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act (CLOUD Act), which was introduced to the Senate in February and hasn't really gone anywhere. The bill would allow American law enforcement to obtain their citizens' private data from servers anywhere in the world, provided they get a US judge to approve a subpoena.

Screenshot of the CLOUD Act in the spending bill

No silver lining ... The CLOUD Act literally tacked on at the end of the spending bill

This is a crucial point, because it allows the cops and Feds to go to a court on American soil and get permission to demand information stored on systems in another country. US prosecutors tried to do just that with Microsoft – getting a New York judge to approve a request for emails stored in Ireland – and it turned into an ugly legal battle. The CLOUD Act, whether passed as is or as part of the spending bill, seeks to avoid that nightmare in future.

The legislation will also empower the US government to set up bilateral agreements with other nations, giving them access to information on their own citizens that may reside within the US. All the overseas state has to do is to pinkie swear that it will use the information lawfully and respect human rights.

"Tucked away in the omnibus spending bill is a provision that allows Trump, and any future president, to share Americans' private emails and other information with countries he personally likes," said Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) on Thursday.

"That means he can strike deals with Russia or Turkey with nearly zero congressional involvement and no oversight by US courts.

"This bill contains only toothless provisions on human rights that Trump's cronies can meet by merely checking a box. It is legislative malpractice that Congress, without a minute of Senate debate, is rushing through the CLOUD Act on this must-pass spending bill."

Wyden isn’t the only senator to have issues with the legislation. Rand Paul (R-KY) has used Senate procedural rules to hold up a vote on the spending bill on the grounds that no one has read it, so until he has gone through it page by page no vote will be held.

All eyes are now on the Senate to see if the bill, and with it the CLOUD Act, will pass. If the legislation gets the green light, it'll have done so with minimal oversight. Democracy! ®

Updated to add

The US Senate approved the spending bill, and cloud surveillance powers, leaving it to President Trump to sign. However, the Tweeter-in-Chief is threatening to veto the law.

Final update

Despite the tease, President Trump has signed off on the legislation, and the CLOUD Act is now the law of the land.

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Warehouse belonging to Chinese payment terminal manufacturer raided by FBI

    PAX Technology devices allegedly infected with malware

    US feds were spotted raiding a warehouse belonging to Chinese payment terminal manufacturer PAX Technology in Jacksonville, Florida, on Tuesday, with speculation abounding that the machines contained preinstalled malware.

    PAX Technology is headquartered in Shenzhen, China, and is one of the largest electronic payment providers in the world. It operates around 60 million point-of-sale (PoS) payment terminals in more than 120 countries.

    Local Jacksonville news anchor Courtney Cole tweeted photos of the scene.

    Continue reading
  • Everything you wanted to know about modern network congestion control but were perhaps too afraid to ask

    In which a little unfairness can be quite beneficial

    Systems Approach It’s hard not to be amazed by the amount of active research on congestion control over the past 30-plus years. From theory to practice, and with more than its fair share of flame wars, the question of how to manage congestion in the network is a technical challenge that resists an optimal solution while offering countless options for incremental improvement.

    This seems like a good time to take stock of where we are, and ask ourselves what might happen next.

    Congestion control is fundamentally an issue of resource allocation — trying to meet the competing demands that applications have for resources (in a network, these are primarily link bandwidth and router buffers), which ultimately reduces to deciding when to say no and to whom. The best framing of the problem I know traces back to a paper [PDF] by Frank Kelly in 1997, when he characterized congestion control as “a distributed algorithm to share network resources among competing sources, where the goal is to choose source rate so as to maximize aggregate source utility subject to capacity constraints.”

    Continue reading
  • How business makes streaming faster and cheaper with CDN and HESP support

    Ensure a high video streaming transmission rate

    Paid Post Here is everything about how the HESP integration helps CDN and the streaming platform by G-Core Labs ensure a high video streaming transmission rate for e-sports and gaming, efficient scalability for e-learning and telemedicine and high quality and minimum latencies for online streams, media and TV broadcasters.

    HESP (High Efficiency Stream Protocol) is a brand new adaptive video streaming protocol. It allows delivery of content with latencies of up to 2 seconds without compromising video quality and broadcasting stability. Unlike comparable solutions, this protocol requires less bandwidth for streaming, which allows businesses to save a lot of money on delivery of content to a large audience.

    Since HESP is based on HTTP, it is suitable for video transmission over CDNs. G-Core Labs was among the world’s first companies to have embedded this protocol in its CDN. With 120 points of presence across 5 continents and over 6,000 peer-to-peer partners, this allows a service provider to deliver videos to millions of viewers, to any devices, anywhere in the world without compromising even 8K video quality. And all this comes at a minimum streaming cost.

    Continue reading
  • Cisco deprecates Microsoft management integrations for UCS servers

    Working on Azure integration – but not there yet

    Cisco has deprecated support for some third-party management integrations for its UCS servers, and emerged unable to play nice with Microsoft's most recent offerings.

    Late last week the server contender slipped out an end-of-life notice [PDF] for integrations with Microsoft System Center's Configuration Manager, Operations Manager, and Virtual Machine Manager. Support for plugins to VMware vCenter Orchestrator and vRealize Orchestrator have also been taken out behind an empty rack with a shotgun.

    The Register inquired about the deprecations, and has good news and bad news.

    Continue reading
  • Protonmail celebrates Swiss court victory exempting it from telco data retention laws

    Doesn't stop local courts' surveillance orders, though

    Encrypted email provider Protonmail has hailed a recent Swiss legal ruling as a "victory for privacy," after winning a lawsuit that sees it exempted from data retention laws in the mountainous realm.

    Referring to a previous ruling that exempted instant messaging services from data capture and storage laws, the Protonmail team said this week: "Together, these two rulings are a victory for privacy in Switzerland as many Swiss companies are now exempted from handing over certain user information in response to Swiss legal orders."

    Switzerland's Federal Administrative Court ruled on October 22 that email providers in Switzerland are not considered telecommunications providers under Swiss law, thereby removing them from the scope of data retention requirements imposed on telcos.

    Continue reading
  • Japan picks AWS and Google for first gov cloud push

    Local players passed over for Digital Agency’s first project

    Japan's Digital Agency has picked Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud for its first big reform push.

    The Agency started operations in September 2021, years after efforts like the UK's Government Digital Service (GDS) or Australia's Digital Transformation Agency (DTA). The body was a signature reform initiated by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who spent his year-long stint in the top job trying to curb Japan's reliance on paper documents, manual processes, and faxes. Japan's many government agencies also operated their websites independently of each other, most with their own design and interface.

    The new Agency therefore has a remit to "cut across all ministries" and "provide services that are driven not toward ministries, agency, laws, or systems, but toward users and to improve user-experience".

    Continue reading
  • Singaporean minister touts internet 'kill switch' that finds kids reading net nasties and cuts 'em off ASAP

    Fancies a real-time crowdsourced content rating scheme too

    A Minister in the Singapore government has suggested the creation of an internet kill switch that would prevent minors from reading questionable material online – perhaps using ratings of content created in real time by crowdsourced contributors.

    "The post-COVID world will bring new challenges globally, including to us in the security arena," said Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen at a Tuesday ceremony to award the city-state's 2021 Defense Technology Prize.

    "For operations, the SAF (Singapore Armed Force) has to expand its capabilities in the digital domain. Whether for administrative or operational purposes, I think that we will need to leverage technology to the maximum," he declared.

    Continue reading
  • China Telecom booted out of USA as Feds worry it could disrupt or spy on local networks

    FCC urges more action against Huawei and DJI, too

    The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has terminated China Telecom's authority to provide communications services in the USA.

    In its announcement of the termination, the government agency explained the decision is necessary because the national security environment has changed in the years since 2002. That was when China Telecom was first allowed to operate in the USA.

    The FCC now believes – partly based on classified advice from national security agencies – that China Telecom can "access, store, disrupt, and/or misroute US communications, which in turn allow them to engage in espionage and other harmful activities against the United States." And because China Telecom is state-controlled, China's government can compel the carrier to act as it sees fit, without judicial review or oversight.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021