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June 2009
Legal Report

U.S. Congressional Legislation: Privacy Officer

A bill (H.R. 1617) introduced by Rep. Christopher Carney (D-PA) that would create positions for privacy officials within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been approved by the House of Representatives. The Senate has not announced whether it will consider the bill.

    U.S. Congressional Legislation: Border Security

    A bill (H.R. 1148) introduced by Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) that evaluates a maritime biometrics program to be used for border security has been approved by the House of Representatives. The measure is now pending in the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee.

      U.S. Congressional Legislation: Retail Theft

      Three bills currently under consideration in Congress would establish programs to combat organized retail theft: S. 470, H.R. 1173, and H.R. 1166.

        U.S. Congressional Legislation: FEMA

        A bill (H.R. 1174) introduced by Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN) would reestablish the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as an independent agency within the Executive Branch. (FEMA was placed under the Department of Homeland Security after the 9-11 attacks.) The bill would also restate FEMA’s mission to reduce the loss of life and property and protect the nation from all hazards both natural and man-made.

          State Legislation: Massachusetts: Identity Theft

          New regulations implemented in Massachusetts require that companies encrypt documents sent over the Internet or saved on laptops or flash drives. Data transmitted wirelessly must also be protected and firewalls must be up to date. Companies were required to meet most of the regulations last month but the deadline for some items has been extended. For example, all data stored on laptops must be encrypted now but the requirement to encrypt data on other portable devices has been delayed until January 1, 2010.

            State Legislation: North Dakota: Contraband

            A new bill (S.B. 2114) introduced in North Dakota would make it illegal for an inmate in a correctional facility to manufacture, possess, or use any type of wireless communication device. The measure would also make it illegal for anyone to deliver or attempt to deliver such a device to an inmate.


              Elsewhere in the Courts: Discrimination

              A federal appeals court has ruled that a security guard who was terminated after he failed a hearing test has no standing to sue his employer for discrimination. The security officer, who wore a hearing aid, was assigned to guard a federal building. Under federal law, guards must have adequate hearing without the use of a hearing aid. The court determined that the policy was consistent with business necessity given “the tremendous harm that could result if a security officer could not perform the essential functions of his job at any given moment.” (Allmond v. Akal Security Inc., U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, No. 07-15561, 2009)

              Elsewhere in the Courts: Religious Discrimination

              A federal appeals court has found that a city’s requirement that firefighters be clean-shaven violates the religious rights of employees. The court upheld a summary judgment in favor of the firefighters, ruling that the city could not prove that beards presented a safety issue when using firefighting equipment. (Potter v. District of Columbia, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, No. 07-7163, 2009)

                SM Online

                Concealed Weapons

                Two recent appellate decisions address the right of employers to prevent workers from bringing firearms onto company property. In one, a court upheld an Oklahoma law giving employees the right to have firearms in their cars at work. In the other, a court determined that Ohio state law does not protect an employee who was fired for violating the policy against keeping a gun in his car in a company parking lot.

                Terrorist Financing

                A study from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy recommends 12 steps to ensure that the misunderstood and underappreciated U.S. effort to combat terrorist financing remains successful. Read the entire report online.

                  Air Cargo Screening

                  Is the August 2010 deadline for 100 percent cargo screening feasible? The Transportation Security Administration and the air cargo sector remain skeptical. The U.S. Government Accountability Office recently examined progress and obstacles.

                    Nuclear Proliferation

                    Congress should worry that U.S. funds for the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Technical Cooperation program may aid state sponsors of terrorism and undermine nuclear nonproliferation, says the Government Accountability Office.

                      Internet Crime

                      The number of Internet crime complaints rose 33 percent in 2008 compared to 2007, with financial losses rising about 11 percent, according to a report by the Internet Crime Complaint Center, a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National White Collar Crime Center.

                        Data Security

                        International regulators, corporate security officers, and consumer advocates gathered in Washington, D.C., recently for a Federal Trade Commission conference focused on securing personal data in the global economy. View the transcripts online.

                          Online Privacy

                          The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to consider the final appeal from the federal government over the constitutionality of the Child Online Protection Act of 1998. The law made it illegal to distribute any material deemed harmful to minors via the Internet. A federal appeals court recently ruled that the law was unconstitutional because it made all Internet service providers liable under the most conservative community’s standards. The appellate court decision now stands.

                            Infrastructure Security

                            View this PowerPoint presentation for an overview of DHS’s Site Assistance Visit, a program to protect U.S. critical infrastructure.


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