The US Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (Va.) sent a letter to the Commerce Department, asking a series of pointed questions. The letter comes as the administration nears its planned date to give up its oversight of the internet domain name system, which helps pair up long strings of numbers with their familiar web addresses.
Part of a long-running battle, the lawmakers asked if the administration is opposed to having Congress hold a vote on the issue, and questioned why it has continued to work to finalize the transition despite Congress repeatedly blocking funds to finish the hand off.
They also questioned the transition proposal itself. They noted portions of the proposal on human rights and free speech might not be finished before the transition. Like other Republicans, they also questioned whether the proposal leaves an opening for other countries to gain control over the system.
Weeks ago, the Senators. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), and Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) issued a joint statement following the Obama administration’s announcement that the IANA proposal to end U.S. oversight of the Internet was satisfactory the lawmakers said the announcement by the Obama administration is a clear indication that it has flagrantly violated federal law.
Below are some of the questions posed by Senator Grassley and Congressman Goodlatte:
- The transfer of government property without Congressional approval raises Constitutional issues and the prospect of illegality. The Government Accountability Office [GAO] is currently conducting a study to determine the United States Government’s property interest in the root zone file – or any other similar component of the Internet that was created and financed by the United States. The Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) provides authoritative legal advice to the President and all Executive Branch agencies. Has NTIA requested OLC to analyze this issue concurrently with the GAO? If not, why?
- Without the proper analysis regarding the United States Government property interest, it is premature to conduct any transition. Will NTIA commit to postpone any transition in the absence of a determination by GAO and OLC relating to this property issue?
- Did NTIA inform other members of the DNS Interagency Working group of the transition related appropriations provision in the FY2106 Omnibus spending bill?
- Why did NTIA proceed in utilizing funds in furtherance of the transition in light of the clear prohibition created by the FY2016 Omnibus spending bill?
- ICANN’s revised bylaws make it clear that the Public Interest Commitments and the registry contracts that contain them are deemed within ICANN’s mission and not subject to a facial ultra vires challenge. However, some members of the multi-stakeholder community have expressed concern that the ICANN Board may not believe that mitigating certain types of DNS abuse, such as IP infringement, is within ICANN’s mandate. How will this proposal require ICANN’s commitment to maintaining and enforcing the Public Interest Commitments, now and in the future?
- Is NTIA opposed to Congress requiring an affirmative, up-or-down vote for the IANA functions transition to be completed? Why or why not?
The recent efforts by the congressmen may mean a stop into any transition processes at least until conditions have been satisfactorily met.