Legal authority to perform Internet Assigned Numbers Authority functions to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers and the global multistakeholder community questioned
Feb. 25, 2015, Fairfax, Va.—Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning today issued the following statement praising Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) for the questions they asked National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) head Lawrence Strickling at today's Internet governance hearing at the Senate Commerce Committee:
"Americans for Limited Government strongly praises Senator Nelson and Senator Sullivan for asking the tough questions of NTIA and asserting Congressional prerogatives over any transfer of Internet governance to the international community. These are the questions that need to be asked of an administration that is hell-bent on averting Congressional votes granting legal authority for the Internet transfer, and so Congress should continue to deny that authority. No less than the First Amendment protections for the Internet afforded by a government contract are at stake.
"In fact, we are astonished that almost one year after NTIA announced the Internet governance transfer, the agency still refuses to provide the agency's actual legal authority document to perform the transfer. It is amazing Mr. Strickling was unable to assure Senator Sullivan that he could produce the legal opinion, despite previous numerous Congressional requests, media inquiries from the Wall Street Journal, and even an almost one-year old Freedom of Information Act request from Americans for Limited Government. It is becoming increasingly concerning that the agency may have proceeded with the Internet transfer without ever having received even an internal legal opinion of the authority to perform the transfer."
Senator Dan Sullivan questioning NTIA head Lawrence Strickling, Feb. 25, 2015 at
Sullivan: "There's been a lot of articles in the paper very concerned about this, as I certainly am, but one of those has actually raised a very important issue that I'd also like you to address is your legal authority to do this. Again, another issue with this administration I have a problem with is taking action where you have no legal authority. Under the Constitution, the Congress has the power to transfer federal government property. [IANA functions] is federal government property, it is valuable property, and I don't think you've been authorized by Congress to take this action yet."
Strickling: "There is no government property that is the subject of this contract. All the contract does is designate ICANN to perform the IANA functions. They were given no assets of the United States with which to perform these functions. The domain name file is—"
Sullivan: "Is there a Commerce Department legal opinion on this issue?"
Strickling: "Yes there is, sir."
Sullivan: "Can we see that?"
Strickling: "I'll take that back, I'm not in a position to say yes or no but I will [take your request back]."
Senator Bill Nelson questioning NTIA head Lawrence Strickling, Feb. 25, 2015 at http://www.senate.gov/isvp/?type=LIVE&comm=commerce&filename=commerce022515&stt=02:11:25
Nelson: "Last year, in the omnibus appropriations, a rider was placed that prevents NTIA from spending funds on the transition to IANA contract before September 30 of this year, 2015. Can you explain NTIA's interpretation of that rider, Mr. Secretary?"
Strickling: "We have interpreted that resolution or interpreted that language to prevent us from allowing the transition to occure before September 30… In consultations with members and staffs up here on the Hill, we sought to clarify whether that would in any way restrict our ability to monitor the transition planning process which is going on in the community, and is not subject to any restrictions in the legislation and in fact as you know the rider imposes reporting requirements on us. It was clear Congress intended us to continue to monitor the process and report back on what's happening. And then within that we had also indicated that our need and I think the needs of serving American interests that we provide feedback where we thought it was appropriate, and we have engaged in that. Again, I'm very careful not to steer decision-making one way or antoher but I think through a series of questions that we've been asking and will continue to ask we are trying to make sure the process considers all the issues before reaching a final result. But we take very seriously the fact that no transition will take place before September 30."
Nelson: "What happens if that rider is continued?"
Strickling: "Again, I wouldn't want to speculate on that. I'm hopeful that the process within the community will result in a proposal that will demonstrate to Congress and the valid concerns people have up here about the process that in fact it's being handled in a responsible fashion, that the transition will meet the conditions, and that there will be no need to extend that particular provision past September 30."
Nelson: "Well, is the world going to stop revolving if it is extended?"
Strickling: "I don't like to speculate on what will or won't happen in the future, but I'm pretty confident the world won't stop revolving, yes, sir."
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