Next month’s Senate election in Wisconsin could gain Silicon Valley a key ally in Washington in the high-tech industry’s battle against the U.S. government’s growing appetite for more access to private data.
Democrat Russ Feingold, 63, the only lawmaker to vote against the USA Patriot Act in 2001, leads incumbent Republican Senator Ron Johnson in the state in opinion polls ahead of the Nov. 8 election.
Johnson, 61, rode a wave of support from conservative Tea Party activists to victory six years ago, sweeping Feingold out of office. But polls this year have consistently shown Feingold ahead, although recent surveys show a tighter race.
Privacy advocates and former Feingold staffers said they expected Feingold, if returned to office, to be sympathetic to the privacy concerns of technology companies and civil liberties groups on issues such as encryption and domestic spying, at a time when many lawmakers are being pressured to confront security threats from Islamic State and other militant groups.
The Feingold campaign did not respond to requests for comment.
Those tensions grew after former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden leaked secrets about U.S. surveillance practices in 2013. They reached a crescendo earlier this year when the FBI tried to force Apple to unlock an iPhone tied to one of the shooters in a San Bernardino, California, attack that killed 14 people.
Chief among the goals of many companies and privacy advocates is reforming a foreign intelligence authority used to justify once-secret broad internet surveillance programs exposed by Snowden that will expire in December 2017 unless Congress reauthorizes them.
Should Feingold return to Capitol Hill, former staffers said he would probably seek a seat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, where he would have privileged access to classified information about government spying.
Feingold’s campaign has received far more contributions than Johnson’s from donors employed by tech companies including Alphabet Inc’s Google
VOTED AGAINST PATRIOT ACT
Digital privacy activists have long regarded Feingold as an ally and aggressive overseer of the intelligence community, a reputation he burnished as the sole vote against the USA Patriot Act, which was passed after the Sept. 11 attacks, expanding the government’s surveillance capabilities.
In a speech from the Senate floor at the time, Feingold raised concerns that one provision would allow the government to “go on a fishing expedition and collect information on virtually anyone.”
Leaks from Snowden in 2013 showed the provision Feingold questioned was later secretly interpreted to conduct bulk surveillance on U.S. phone metadata. That program was curtailed by Congress in 2015.
Feingold “was a true leader in fighting indiscriminate mass surveillance of innocent Americans,” U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who also is among congressional skeptics of government spying, said in a statement.
Wisconsin typically leans Democratic during high-turnout presidential election years, a problem for Johnson, who won by nearly 5 points in 2010 running as a small-government outsider.
“It was pretty clear that 2010 was a wave election and there was nothing that (Feingold) could have done to fend off the challenge from Ron Johnson,” said Kenneth Mayer, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Johnson has attempted to use Feingold’s 18-year Senate record to portray him as soft on national security. William Allison, a Johnson campaign spokesman, added that Feingold had been “willing to completely mislead Wisconsinites about his weak record on national security.”
(Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Peter Cooney)
Democrats and Never-Trumpers gaming out ‘doomsday scenarios’ if president refuses to leave office: report
According to a report in the New York Times, Democratic strategists and Never-Trumper conservatives fear Donald Trump will refuse to leave office should he lose in November and are making plans and figuring out their legal options should such an unprecedented state of affairs come to pass.
The report, by the Times' Reid Epstein, begins with one such possible scenario.
‘Retaliation plain and simple’: Vaccine agency top Doc fired by Trump administration files whistleblower complaint
Dr. Rick Bright has retained an attorney and will be filing a whistleblower complaint after the Trump administration fired him from his position as head of the federal agency charged with developing a COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Bright was moved to a different agency with a narrower focus after he raised concerns over President Donald Trump's obsession with promoting hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug recent studies found doubles the death rate in coronavirus patients.
Checking blood for coronavirus antibodies – 3 questions answered about serological tests and immunity
Coronavirus testing in the United States is moving into a new phase as scientists begin looking into people’s blood for signs they’ve been infected by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This technique is called serological testing.
Virologist Daniel Stadlbauer helped develop a serological test to detect SARS-CoV-2 antibodies and helped transfer it from the research lab to the clinical setting. Epidemiologist Aubree Gordon regularly uses serological assays in her research studies on influenza and dengue fever. She’s now established serological testing for SARS-CoV-2 in her research lab.