Res Communis Blog RSS

Category Archives: Aerospace Law Interfaces

TSA Funding Up In 2012 Consolidated Appropriations Act

Source: HS Today

In the FY 2012 consolidated spending act (Public Law 112-074) signed by President Barack Obama last Friday, TSA received about $7.85 billion, up $153 million from 2011. TSA and US Customs and Border Protection, perhaps two of the three most visible DHS agencies along with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, both received increases although the total DHS budget dropped to $39.6 billion in base discretionary funding in FY 2012, down about $111 million from last year. [more]

US Federal Appeals court upholds immunity law for telecom companies in government surveillance program

Source: The Washington Post

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal appeals court has ruled as constitutional a law giving telecommunications companies legal immunity for helping the government with its email and telephone eavesdropping program.

Thursday’s unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court decision regarding the 2008 law.

The appeal concerned a case that consolidated 33 different lawsuits filed against various telecom companies, including AT&T, Sprint Nextel, Verizon Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp. on behalf of these companies’ customers.

The court noted comments made by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence regarding the legal immunity’s role in helping the government gather intelligence.

“It emphasized that electronic intelligence gathering depends in great part on cooperation from private companies … and that if litigation were allowed to proceed against persons allegedly assisting in such activities, ‘the private sector might be unwilling to cooperate with lawful government requests in the future,’” Judge M. Margaret McKeown said. [Full story]

LightSquared investors get SEC warning

Source: AOPA

Executives of the hedge fund that has invested heavily in LightSquared were notified Dec. 8 that they may be investigated for possible civil securities-law violations, said published reports.

The Wall Street Journal reported Dec. 9 that Harbinger Capital Partners, the major financier of LightSquared and its GPS-jamming mobile satellite network, had disclosed that Philip Falcone and two other HCP board members received so-called Wells notices from the Securities and Exchange Commission. The matters under investigation did not relate to LightSquared, the reports said.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has long been a critic of what he called the Federal Communications Commission’s fast-track handling of the LightSquared network proposal despite proven threats to aviation navigation, agriculture, and other uses of GPS. On Friday, Dec. 9, a statement sharply critical of the FCC appeared on Grassley’s Senate website. [Full story]

US Supreme Court Hears Pilot’s Medical Case

Source: AVweb

Pilot Stanmore Cooper wants to sue the government for the emotional distress caused when the FAA obtained his medical records from the Social Security Administration, and on Wednesday the case was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. A lower court already has ruled that Cooper’s privacy rights were violated, but the Supreme Court will decide whether compensation must be limited to financial losses. Cooper, of San Francisco, was a private pilot until the 1980s, when he was diagnosed with HIV and let his medical lapse. In 1994, he reapplied for a medical certificate, but didn’t reveal his diagnosis for fear he would be denied. The certificate was revoked after the FAA checked the medical records. Cooper pleaded guilty to a charge of making a false statement and was fined $1,000. [Full story]

US Navy and Agriculture Departments to purchase biofuels for fleets

Source: Fox News

The departments of Agriculture and the Navy announced plans Monday to buy 450,000 gallons of non-food biofuels — at a cost of $16 per gallon — in what will be the largest federal purchase of biofuels in U.S. history.

The purchase is being authorized by an executive order under the Obama administration’s “we can’t wait” campaign.

Administration officials gave no indication why they’re not going through Congress, instead using a program that was established to promote rapid job growth by bypassing congressional debate.

The fuel will power planes and the surface ships of the “Great Green Fleet Carrier Strike Force” in summer 2012 exercises off Hawaii. The carrier itself is nuclear-powered. [Full story]


China: Telecom operators seek to end commission investigation, vow to do better


TWO of China’s top telecommunications operators have promised to cut broadband rates and lift Internet access speed over the next five years, aiming to terminate a government anti-monopoly probe on broadband business launched last month.

China Telecom and China Unicom, which together hold almost 90 percent of the country’s broadband market share and have more than 100 million accounts, said yesterday that they had applied to the National Development and Reform Commission to end the anti-monopoly investigations.

The commission confirmed yesterday it had received the applications, which were sent on November 17, according to Xinhua news agency.

Under China’s antitrust law, the two state-owned telecommunications giants may face a combined fine of up to 8 billion yuan (US$1.26 billion) if the commission, the country’s top economic planner, finds obvious evidence of unfair monopolistic practices. [more]

U.S. stolen space treasures rescued from auction

Source: Florida Today

NASA Inspector General’s office reclaims prized pieces of America’s space program

The identification badges of three astronaut heroes who were killed in the line of duty. Heat-shielding tiles plucked from the space shuttle orbiters. A humongous rocket engine.

Those are some of the items stolen by space workers who apparently tried to sell them, through a friend or via auction houses or websites like eBay. The crimes were foiled by agents working for NASA’s Inspector General, the taxpayer-watchdog arm of the nation’s space agency. [Full story]

TSA expands testing of ‘chat-down’ program

Source: The Hill

The Transportation Security Administration added a second airport to its behavior-detection interview program, dubbed “chat downs” by critics [program extended to Detroit’s Metro International Airport].

TSA tested the program this summer at Boston’s Logan Airport, interviewing travelers as a means of assessing suspicious behavior by their reactions to certain questions.

The information gathered in interviews will be used as the basis of a known-traveler program that advocates say could reduce wait times at airport security checkpoints for frequent fliers because every passenger would not have to be checked exactly the same way. [Full story]

Federal Judge expected to rule on Avgas case soon

Source: AvWeb

A federal judge in California has asked for more information before deciding whether to dismiss a case affecting the sale of avgas in California, the National Air Transportation Association reported this week. In a hearing last week in Fresno, Judge Anthony Ishii requested additional briefings to be filed by Wednesday before ruling on a motion to dismiss the case. His decision is expected within a week. The case was brought by a coalition of California FBOs and avgas distributors, who have asked the court to derail a suit brought by the Center for Environmental Health over the sale of leaded avgas. [more]

Source: AOPA

More info needed in Calif. avgas suit

Guam aircraft company sued for alleged religious discrimination

Source: Saipan Tribune

HAGATNA, Guam-Aviation Concepts, Inc., an aircraft retailer and service provider, violated federal law when it terminated a Jehovah’s Witness after he refused to raise the flags of the United States and Guam, an activity that is against his religious beliefs, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged in a lawsuit it filed Monday. [Full story]