TIME Immigration

Latinos, Young Voters Applaud Obama Action On Immigration, Polls Show

Immigrants Rally To Thank Obama
Nov. 21, 2014 - Washington, District of Columbia, U.S. - Hundreds of Latino activists and families gather outside of the White House the day after Obama's immigration executive order in Washington on Nov. 21, 2014. Oliver Contreras—Zuma Press

Latino voters of both parties blame Congressional Republicans for failing to pass an immigration reform bill

The vast majority of Latinos and voters under the age of 35 support President Barack Obama’s executive action last Thursday shielding between 4 and 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation, according to new national polls.

The overwhelming support from these two growing demographics may have major implications for voter turnout and party affiliation in 2016.

Almost 90% of Latino voters say they “support” or “strongly support” Obama’s executive action, according to a national poll by Latino Decisions and commissioned by two pro-immigration reform groups, Presente.org and Mi Familia Vota.

Nearly three-fourths (72%) of voters under the age of 35 supported the president’s action, according to a national poll by Hart Research Associates [PDF].

While both Latinos and young voters showed particularly strong support, 67% of all voters—both men and women from states that supported both Obama and Mitt Romney in 2012—felt favorably toward the executive action, according to the Hart Research poll. More than two-thirds of all voters were in favor of allowing the undocumented parents of children or young adults to stay in the U.S., and of providing temporary work permits to eligible immigrants.

Both polls found that voters believe Obama’s executive action is lawful. Respondents strongly disagreed with strategies, suggested by some Republicans, to fight the action: 72% of voters opposed the idea of Republicans shutting down the government until the president agrees to end the executive action, according to the Hart Research poll. (62% of Tea Party Republicans were in favor of that strategy.) Four out of five Latino voters opposed the idea of Republicans passing a bill to defund a federal program issuing work permits to undocumented workers, according to the Latino Decisions poll.

Latino support for the executive action appears to be largely bipartisan, according to Latino Decisions. While 95% of Democratic Latino voters were in favor of the executive action, 76% of Republican Latinos were as well. The issue of immigration reform remains deeply personal for many Latino voters, 64% of whom have friends, family members, coworkers, or acquaintances who are undocumented.

Sixty-four percent of Latino voters blamed Congressional Republicans for failing to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill; 24% blame Obama and Democrats, according to the Latino Decisions poll.

Insofar as Latino voters were disappointed by Obama’s executive action, the reason seems to be that it didn’t go far enough. Two-thirds (66%) of Latinos said that Obama should use additional executive orders to shield from deportation those undocumented immigrations who were not covered by last Thursday’s action, which covers only those who have not committed a crime, lived here five or more years, and are either parents of a U.S. citizen or legal resident child here in the U.S. The action does not grant them citizenship, but it does allow them to get legal work permits.

The Latino Decisions poll included 405 Latinos randomly selected from a nationwide database of registered voters. Its margin of error is +/- 4.9%. The Hart Research Associates poll surveyed 800 likely 2016 voters and had a margin of error of +/-3.5%.

TIME 2016 Election

Hillary’s 2016 Campaign is Ready, Hypothetically Speaking

Hillary Clinton
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks to a crowd during a campaign stop to promote Democrats in re-election bids in the east Denver suburb of Aurora, Colo. on Oct. 21, 2014. David Zalubowski—AP

Would-be surrogates tried to make the case for Hillary without admitting she's running

Hillary Clinton is almost definitely, but not certainly, going to run for president and if she does, she’ll most likely be the strongest candidate, but she could totally still lose, so Democrats shouldn’t get cocky.

That was the awkward message from would-be Clinton surrogates who were among the several hundred politicos, fundraisers and activists who showed up for a “Ready For Hillary” convention in New York Friday.

At some moments, they seemed to fall over themselves insisting that the former Secretary of State’s ascendancy should not be considered “inevitable,” while at other moments they discussed in great detail the organizational structure, fundraising and messaging efforts that are already in place to buttress her 2016 campaign.

Former Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez said that ambivalence as a result of the pummeling Clinton’s campaign received six years ago, when many Democrats considered her a shoo-in as the Democratic nominee.

“In 2008, we got eviscerated by a better campaign on the ground,” he explained. “Lessons have been learned. So there has been extraordinary preparation and it’s a very, very different, far more sophisticated operation that’s there and it’s ready for her, should she decide to run.”

Adam Parkhomenko, who founded the organizational group Ready for Hillary, which has spent the last two years collecting a database of roughly 3 million supporters, echoed the sentiment.

“I wouldn’t have been doing this since January 2013 if I thought she was inevitable,” he said. “We learned in 2008 she’s not inevitable. No one’s inevitable.”

Stephanie Schriock, the head of EMILY’s List, who is expected to play a major role in a future Clinton campaign, said she looks forward to a “healthy primary.”

“As everyone goes through a presidential primary process, it’ll be the candidate who make the case,” she said, adding that Clinton, while clearly the front-runner, will not be immune to that process. “There’s nothing inevitable about 2016.”

Meanwhile, several Clinton backers, including Schriock, former Obama campaign organizer Mitch Stewart, Correct the Record’s David Brock, and political strategist Chris Lehane, spoke directly about what organizations would have to work together on the ground to make a 2016 Clinton campaign most effective, what issues Clinton would be most likely to emphasize, and what message the campaign would be built around. All agreed that a hypothetical Clinton campaign will likely to focus on working class voters, who are feeling increasingly marginalized in today’s economy.

Clinton must project a vision for “economic opportunity for American families,” said Schriock. That’s a phrase she used, with slight variations, twice more during a half-hour talk with reporters. The campaign will likely focus on connecting with working class voters, women, Hispanics and the African American community over issues like equal pay, minimum wage and leveling the playing field for the middle class, she said.

Nina Turner, an Ohio state senator, said that a Clinton campaign could easily motivate key voting blocs, like the African American community, by staking progressive positions on issues like prison reform or creating more economic opportunities for the working poor. But, she said, “This is not about a coronation for anybody.”

Stewart agreed that “a hypothetical Clinton campaign” would have to focus primarily economic issues. “We have to come up with an economic message that shows working class voters that we’re on their side,” said Stewart.

When asked what issues would put Clinton in the strongest position against other potential Democratic contenders, such Martin O’Malley, Bernie Sanders, or Jim Webb, who announced yesterday that he was exploring the possibility of running, Stewart demurred. “I’m not going to comment on any hypothetical candidate,” said Stewart, laughing. “Except my specific hypothetical candidate.”

TIME technology

Conservatives Overwhelmingly Back Net Neutrality, Poll Finds

A poll released today by the Internet Freedom Business Alliance (IFBA), found that conservatives voters like the idea of net neutrality.

Within a few hours of President Barack Obama’s call on Monday for regulators to ensure strict “net neutrality“—rules requiring Internet service providers (ISPs) to treat all Internet content equally—the Republican establishment’s hair caught on fire.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) called net neutrality the “Obamacare for the Internet“; House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said it was “a textbook example of the kind of Washington regulations that destroy innovation and entrepreneurship”; and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-Lousiana) said Obama’s attempt to “impose net neutrality regulations on the Internet” was a “radical effort” with “no justification.” To list just a few of the howling reactions.

But according to a poll released today by the Internet Freedom Business Alliance (IFBA), a pro-net neutrality association of businesses, Republicans and conservatives outside of Washington D.C., seem to think that the idea of net neutrality is actually a pretty good one.

Some 83% of voters who self-identified as “very conservative” were concerned about the possibility of ISPs having the power to “influence content” online. Only 17% reported being unconcerned. Similarly, 83% of self-identified conservatives thought that Congress should take action to ensure that cable companies do not “monopolize the Internet” or “reduce the inherent equality of the Internet” by charging some content companies for speedier access.

The poll did not ask participants about specific methods of regulation, like whether the Federal Communications Commission ought to reclassify consumer broadband Internet as a utility under “Title II”—as Obama has called for—or whether it should use “Section 706″ of the Telecommunications Act, another statute relating to broadband infrastructure.

The poll, explained Andrew Shore, the executive director of IFBA, was designed to “get to the heart” of net neutrality by asking voters whether they believed that the government should prevent Internet service providers (ISPs) from charging Internet content companies for special access to Internet customers.

The poll also asked whether voters were concerned that big ISPs—like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T—could influence the government and elected officials in their favor; 72% of self-identified conservatives said yes.

Last year, Comcast—the nation’s biggest ISP by a long shot—spent more on lobbying than any other company in the U.S. except Northrop Grumman, the defense contractor that makes the B-2 bomber. Of the $16.4 million it has spent on lobbying and campaign contributions this year, large chunks have gone to the National Republican Congressional Committee ($104,000); the National Republican Senatorial Committee ($87,975); and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee ($85,750), according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Boehner, who was among the first to slam Obama’s call for net neutrality regulations yesterday, has received $107,775 from Comcast—nearly twice as much as any other other member of Congress. Boehner also holds stock in Comcast, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

But big Internet content companies which are in favor of net neutrality regulations, like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Ebay, are hardly wallflowers in this debate. So far this year, Google spent $3.9 million in campaign donations and $13.7 million on lobbying.

(The Vox Populi poll surveyed 1,270 active voters on Oct. 26/27, with a margin of error of +/-2.8%.)

Read next: Inside Obama’s Net Neutrality Power Play

TIME technology

Inside Obama’s Net Neutrality Power Play

President Barack Obama’s decision to call for the strictest regulation of consumer broadband Internet is the result of months of internal White House debate over how to push the Federal Communications Commission to propose stronger Open Internet rules, government and industry insiders familiar with the process tell TIME. The Monday announcement comes days before an FCC deadline on the issue.

Obama’s surprise statement reverberated across the worlds of policy, business and technology, and appeared to shift the momentum in the long-running war over the future of the Internet. It drew a defensive response from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, drove down cable stocks, and juiced the debate between Open Internet advocates and the nation’s biggest cable and phone companies, like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T.

The question now is whether it will be enough to shift Wheeler and the FCC off their current, more cable-friendly path ahead of a deadline next week for the commission to publish revised rules for consumer broadband Internet. The revised rules would need to be published by Nov. 19 in order for the FCC to vote on them at an upcoming December meeting.

Obama’s statement is a shot across the bow for Wheeler, a former telecom lobbyist and one of the president’s top fundraisers in 2008 and 2012. For the last year, Wheeler has resisted proposing Open Internet rules that would prevent broadband service providers from collecting fees from content companies in exchange for special access to Internet users—an arrangement formally known as “paid prioritization,” but often dismissed pejoratively as “Internet fast lanes.”

The FCC’s latest rules, proposed in April, were widely panned by Open Internet advocates, including powerful Internet companies, like Google, Amazon, and eBay, for allowing for such paid prioritization agreements.

Over the last six months, Obama has increasingly distanced himself from Wheeler and the FCC’s proposed rules. In May, the White House said only that it would “carefully review [the FCC’s] proposal…in hopes that the final rule stays true to the spirit of net neutrality.” But by October, Obama’s rhetoric was almost impatient.

“My appointee, Tom Wheeler, knows my position,” he said during a speech in California on Oct. 10. “I can’t—now that he’s there, I can’t just call him up and tell him exactly what to do. But what I’ve been clear about, what the White House has been clear about is, is that we expect whatever final rules to emerge to make sure that we’re not creating two or three or four tiers of Internet. That ends up being a big priority of mine.”

Two weeks after Obama’s October speech, Wheeler floated another idea for regulating consumer broadband: a “hybrid approach” that would be slightly stricter on broadband service providers but still allow for paid prioritization agreements. The proposal was again panned by Open Internet advocates for allowing Internet fast lanes while calling them something else.

Frustration with Wheeler’s apparent unwillingness to ban paid prioritization altogether spurred some White House aides to encourage the president to take a more active role in the debate, sources who have been involved with the process tell TIME. For the last several months, Obama and his staff have been studying all of the options available to the FCC to protect an open Internet, according to a White House official.

Tim Karr, who works with Free Press, an Open Internet advocacy organization, said that Obama’s choice to make such a bold proclamation now—just a week after the mid-term elections put Democrats on the defensive—is a powerful signal that his administration will be “willing to take bold executive actions even in a lame duck role.”

It’s also an indication of the influence of the so-called Internet community, which gained political prominence after successfully overturning the SOPA/PIPA legislation in 2011 and, this year, flooding the FCC with four million comments on its proposed rule. “[P]hones have been ringing off the hook at the White House for weeks,” wrote Craig Aaron, the president and CEO of Free Press in a statement.

The White House’s announcement Monday, which took the form of both an open letter and a video, calls on the FCC to reclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act—a move that would give the FCC explicit legal authority over Internet service providers and that most Open Internet advocates say is necessary in protecting future Open Internet rules from inevitable court challenges from the telecom industry. In January, a federal appeals court threw out the FCC’s previous net neutrality rule on the grounds that the agency did not have the legal authority to regulate broadband Internet.

On Monday, Wheeler responded to the White House’s call with a rather defensive note, pointing out that the FCC is an independent agency, before launching into a long explanation of the legal complexity posed by reclassifying consumer broadband services under Title II.

The sentiment was echoed by big Internet service providers, Republican lawmakers, and anti-regulatory advocates, all of whom argued that classifying broadband Internet under Title II is a “nuclear option” that will destroy innovation and undercut private sector investment in Internet infrastructure.

“Reclassification under Title II, which for the first time would apply 1930s-era utility regulation to the Internet, would be a radical reversal of course that would in and of itself threaten great harm to an open Internet, competition and innovation,” a Verizon spokesperson said in a statement.

Comcast vice president David Cohen was similarly alarmed. “To attempt to impose a full-blown Title II regime now, when the classification of cable broadband has always been as an information service, would reverse nearly a decade of precedent, including findings by the Supreme Court that this classification was proper,” he said in a statement.

Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), who is expected to become the Senate Majority Leader next year, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) all published statements warning that Title II was a mistake. “The Commission would be wise to reject it,” McConnell said.

“Today’s proposal is a step backward and would slow innovation if implemented,” said Mike Montgomery, the executive director CALinnovates, a San Francisco-based coalition that works on public policy in technology. He added that while “protecting consumers and innovation is a noble cause… we should be creating new laws to deal with new technologies.”

Meanwhile, Open Internet advocates pooh-poohed such concerns. “We are looking for rules that are not burdensome to the Internet’s users,” said Michael Beckerman president and CEO of the Internet Association, an advocacy group that represents Amazon, Facebook, AOL, Netflix, and dozens of other large Silicon Valley firms. “We want to ensure that you don’t need to hire a lawyer or pay a fee” to ensure that your content is reaches all Internet users equally.

Beckerman also warned that while a bit of celebration is in order, the biggest battles—getting the FCC to actually write strong rules—have yet to be fought. “Even if the FCC reclassifies consumer broadband service under Title II, the resulting rules could still allow for paid prioritization agreements,” he said. “We’ll be watching the details closely.”

Read next: All Your Questions About Obama’s Internet Plan Answered

TIME Education

A Rough Election Day For Teachers Unions

Florida Rep. Gov. Rick Scott gives his victory speech Nov. 4, 2014 in Bonita Springs, Florida.
Florida Rep. Gov. Rick Scott gives his victory speech Nov. 4, 2014 in Bonita Springs, Florida. Erik Kellar—Getty Images

Teachers groups faced losses across the board

Correction: Appended, Nov. 5.

Despite shelling out more than $60 million this election cycle—substantially more than they have spent in the past—the national teachers unions watched with disappointment on Tuesday as their candidates in Georgia, North Carolina, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Illinois were roundly defeated. Many union-backed state and local initiatives on issues like pre-K education and better child-care salaries also went down in flames.

The battle over education at the federal level matters more these days, with major government-backed initiatives, like the Common Core standards, funding for new teacher evaluations, and student loan forgiveness programs, hanging in the balance.

While American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten dismissed the trouncing as an unfortunate side effect of a larger Republican referendum on President Obama’s record, education reformers were quick to chalk up the results as a repudiation of the educational establishment.

“Union-backed candidates embracing a one-size-fits-all, status quo education system for our children were soundly rejected by voters,” said Kevin Chavous, executive counsel of the American Federation for Children, a conservative reform group that supports charter schools, vouchers, and other school choice programs. The AFC and its partner PACs spent $4.5 million this election cycle.

“This election marks the beginning of the end for the education establishment; no longer can unions expect to buy the outcome of elections,” he added. “Voters at every level have rejected an antiquated education establishment agenda and system.”

In a statement Wednesday, Weingarten refuted that interpretation, pointing to a handful of victories, including the passage of school levies across the country. In Pennsylvania, voters elected union-friendly Democrat Tom Wolf over incumbent Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, who had waged war against the unions and cut public school funding. In California, the unions also celebrated the reelection of state schools chief Tom Torlakson, who fought a vicious—and wildly expensive—battle against the reformer-backed Marshall Tuck.

Weingarten also insisted that in places like Florida, where Republican Gov. Rick Scott won over union-backed Charlie Crist, it was a tight election and Scott “ran on funding schools, not his record.”

In a video statement released Wednesday afternoon, National Education Association president Lily Eskelsen Garcia said that while many banner races were lost, voters’ support for state and local initiatives on minimum wage, school safety and women’s health should be taken as a good sign. “They chose to support kids and their families,” she said.

But in most races, including Florida, where the AFT and the NEA spent generously on TV ads and where both Weingarten and Eskelsen Garcia personally stumped for more than a dozen candidates, the union-backed choices were largely aced out. Democratic gubernatorial candidates Mary Burke in Wisconsin and Mark Schauer in Michigan, both of whom campaigned with Weingarten and Eskelsen Garcia, both lost Tuesday.

In Kansas, Republican Gov. Sam Brownback beat Democratic challenger Paul Davis, despite the NEA Advocacy Fund’s ad campaign attacking Brownback’s “failed experiment” in education. And in North Carolina, Republican Thom Tillis beat out Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan for her Senate seat, despite the NEA slamming Tillis for his record on education. In Arkansas, union-backed Democratic incumbent Mark Pryor lost to Republican challenger Tom Cotton.

In Arizona and Georgia, radical opponents of the Common Core State Standards came to power over union-friendly candidates who would see a more moderate implementation of the standards, and in Nevada, a ballot measure raising taxes on corporations to fund public schools failed to pass. In Seattle, an effort to expand pre-K education and raise wages for child care workers failed, and in Washington state, voters rejected an effort to reduce class sizes and increase the number of teachers hired.

But Eskelsen Garcia, while admitting to a “heavy heart” today, laced her statement with an implicit threat. “Candidates across the spectrum made statements claims and promises of what he or she is going to do for public education. We will soon know if they were telling the truth,” she said. “And for those that weren’t, we will be the watch dogs.”

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the amount teachers spent during the 2014 election cycle. It was more than $60 million.

TIME Environment

4 Ways the New Top Environment Senator Disagrees With Science

Jim Inhofe
Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla. gives a victory speech at the Republican watch party in Oklahoma City on Nov. 4, 2014. Sue Ogrocki—AP

Meet Jim Inhofe

Sen. Jim Inhofe is widely expected to take over the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee now that Republicans have won control of the Senate, putting one of Washington’s most strident climate change deniers in charge of environmental policy.

In his 2012 book, The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future, the Oklahoma Republican argued that climate change science has been manufactured by liberals to scare the American public, push through anti-business regulations and sell newspapers, and that humans should do nothing to regulate greenhouse gases.

Problem is, Inhofe’s opinions are deeply at odds with the overwhelming consensus of the scientific community, both in the U.S. and abroad. Here’s just a few ways how.

Human activity

Inhofe: The Senator says hundreds of scientists dispute the idea that global warming is the result of human activity.

Science: 97% of international scientists working in fields related to the environmental sciences agree that current global warming trends are the result of human activity. No U.S. or international scientific institutions of any caliber dispute the theory of anthropogenic climate change.

Consequences

Inhofe: He says global warming, if it’s happening at all, could be beneficial for humanity. “Thus far, no one has seriously demonstrated any scientific proof that increased global temperatures would lead to the catastrophes predicted by alarmists,” he said in a 2003 speech. “In fact, it appears that just the opposite is true: that increases in global temperatures may have a beneficial effect on how we live our lives.”

Science: The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has found unequivocally that climate change will have a catastrophically negative effect on humans. In its fifth report, released Sunday, the panel compiled and analyzed hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific studies on climate change from all over the world and found that the consequences of inaction will lead, and already are leading, to flooding, diminished crop yields, destructive weather, and mass extinction.

Cycles

Inhofe: If global temperatures appear to be warming, that’s just because “[w]e go through these 30-year cycles,” he said on Mike Huckabee’s radio show in 2013.

Science: Dozens of peer-reviewed international studies, including the 2012 State of the Climate peer-reviewed report by the American Meteorological Society (AMS)—which was compiled by 384 scientists from 52 countries—underscored that current warming trends are happening much more rapidly than any natural warming process, and that it is unquestionably the result of anthropogenic greenhouse gases, released by humans burning fossil fuels.

History

Inhofe: Scientists can’t explain why, eight years ago, “we went into a leveling-out period” in which the earth did not continue to warm.

Science: No such “leveling out” occurred. While individual temperatures spike and plummet every year, climate change science asks a longer-term question: Is the earth warmer than it was fifty years ago? The answer is, again, unequivocally yes. Sea ice has reached a record low, the Arctic has continued to warm, sea temperatures have continued to increase, ocean heat has reached near record-levels and sea levels have reached an all-time high.

TIME Courts

Supreme Court Weighs Limits of Whistleblower Protections

Do federal laws protect whistleblowers who disclose “sensitive security information”?

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday in a case that could fundamentally alter the legal balance between protecting secrets or protecting whistleblowers.

In 2003, a Federal Air Marshal, Robert MacLean, told an MSNBC reporter that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) had cancelled missions on commercial flights that required marshals to spend the night away from home. MacLean’s supervisor told him the cancellations were intended to save money and MacLean says he was concerned the cutbacks posed a danger to the public.

When his supervisors traced the MSNBC leak back to MacLean, he was removed from his position for violating a TSA rule prohibiting the disclosure of “sensitive security information,” a category of information below “secret” that is not classified. MacLean argues he was protected by the Whistleblower Protection Act, a 1989 law that shields from retribution employees who publicize information they believe constitutes a “substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.”

The problem for MacLean, and for the courts, is that the WPA has an big exemption in it to prevent leaks that could threaten national security or endanger government officials: the act says it does not protect those who make disclosures “specifically prohibited by law.”

The question before the court Tuesday was what kind of secrets are “specifically prohibited by law”? Can the President and his executive branch agencies create broad categories of non-classified information that can’t be shared with the public by a whistleblower? Or does Congress have to state exactly what kind of information can’t be leaked?

The Supreme Court Justices vigorously debated those fine points for an hour Tuesday morning, carefully picking apart both sides’ arguments, with the liberal justices appearing to sympathize with MacLean and the conservative bloc leaning toward DHS.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor appeared to say at one point that the “facts favored” MacLean’s argument, at least in the context of what entities he leaked the information to. (He told MSNBC and not, say, a foreign government official.) And both Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer worried that the TSA rule, which states that employees can’t disclose “sensitive security information,” was too broad. How is an employee supposed to know what qualifies as “sensitive security information” and what does not? If you define “sensitive security information” as anything that’s “detrimental to the security of transportation, that seems to me to be everything from a spark plug that’s deficient in an airplane to a terrorist attack,” Breyer said.

But Justices Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy seemed less sympathetic to MacLean’s case. MacLean’s attorney, Neal Katyal, built his argument on the assertion that this TSA rule, though promulgated correctly and at the direction of the U.S. Congress, should not qualify as a “law.” He cited both legislative history and reports from the House and Senate. Indeed, the conference committee report on the WPA does not pull any punches: “The reference to disclosures specifically prohibited by law is meant to refer to statutory law and court interpretations of those statutes,” it reads. “It does not refer to agency rules and regulations.”

While that particular language is pretty stark, several justices seemed unconvinced, noting that conference committee reports are often written by staff members and are not subject to legal scrutiny by members of Congress. “Are you really going to spin out that argument that that is what Congress intended, and what all the members of Congress meant, when they voted on it?” Scalia asked. “I find that hard to believe.”

The Court is likely to release its decision this winter.

TIME Education

Think You Can Cheat on the SAT? The College Board Says Think Again

Security measures include air gaps, fake test takers, alarm doors, photo verification and handwriting samples

The SAT is never uploaded to the Internet. Test questions are never emailed. And even the computers that test creators use to write and edit the questions are never, ever connected to the web.

“The idea is that you can’t hack something that isn’t there,” said Ray Nicosia, the director of the Office of Testing Integrity at the Educational Testing Service (ETS), which oversees the security of the College Board’s SAT and SAT II subject area tests. Every year, those tests are administered at 25,000 test centers in 192 countries around the world.

Earlier this week, the College Board sent emails to all students living in China or Korea who had taken the SAT on October 11, informing them that their test scores would be reviewed and delayed for up to a month because of allegations of widespread cheating. It’s the latest in a long line of alleged and full-blown cheating scandals in the last few years that have involved not only the SATs, but nearly every other widely-administered standardized test, including Advance Placement tests, the ACTs, and English language qualifying exams.

“They’re always going to be people trying to challenge the system,” Nicosia said. “We stop a lot but there’s always someone trying new a way.” The advent of cell phones, tiny cameras and nearly undetectable recording devices, for example, has required his team to up their game, he said.

A quick search on YouTube reveals dozens of innovative cheating ideas, like scanning answers onto soft drink wrappers or printing formulas onto fabric, each complete with instructions on how to pull it off. One company sells an eraser that doubles as a microphone, designed to help sneaky individuals communicate with “helpers” up to 3,000 feet away.

In 2007, two students in China used tiny, wireless listening devices in their ear canals to cheat on an English exam; they were later hospitalized when the devices got stuck, according to China Daily. But, Nicosia said, those “James Bond tactics” are not as common as other, more run-of-the-mill cheating gambits. For example, in 2011, twenty students were arrested on Long Island, New York, for hiring other students—for a cool $3,600 bucks—to impersonate them in the SAT exam room.

Nicosia would not speak specifically about the allegations of cheating in the Oct. 11 test. But early speculation has focused on the possibility that the same test administered overseas on Oct. 11 had been administered previously in the U.S. ETS spokesman Thomas Ewing confirmed that ETS does reuse tests in different locations, though he would not comment on the Oct. 11 test.

Parke Muth, who volunteers as a consultant and advisor to Chinese students said he’s heard that test preparation companies will offer to pay test takers to memorize a half-dozen or so questions from a given test and write them down after they’ve left the testing area. “They do that a hundred times and they have the full test,” Muth said. He said he also heard allegations of students ripping out individual pages of a test booklet and smuggling it out of the test center.

Ewing didn’t seem too surprised by these suggestions. “The costs of test security have been steadily escalating over the years and ETS spends literally millions and millions of dollars in this area,” he said, adding that the Office of Testing Integrity, which Ray Nicosia has overseen since the mid-‘90s, has grown substantially. It now monitors every stage in the SAT and SAT II test-making and test-taking process—from the moment questions are written to the moment that students sit down to take the exam.

It’s a big job, made slightly easier by the fact that, unlike the ACT, which can now be taken on a computer in some locations, neither the SAT or the SAT II is available on any computer or digital device. Those exams must be taken instead with a good old-fashioned pencil and a paper booklet.

Still, Nicosia said, his oversight process doesn’t cut any corners. It begins in the College Board’s secure offices, which are patrolled by security guards who monitor suspicious vehicles in the area. Employees dealing directly with the test questions are required to use computers that are not, and never have been, connected to the Internet, and no part of the test, perhaps needless to say, is ever stored on the cloud. Test writers themselves are subject to background and criminal checks, and can have their briefcases and bags searched upon exiting the building to ensure that they are not transporting a thumb drive or other device containing information about the test’s content.

Once the test is written, it is moved in “a secure carrier,” Nicosia said, declining to elaborate, to a print shop that uses security protocols similar to companies that print casino vouchers, which can be exchanged for cash. “All our printers have alarm doors and security cameras and whole list of other things we mandate,” Nicosia said. “You don’t have a print shop employee just walking outside for a cigarette break.” At the end of the printing process, the SAT test booklets are “packaged in a certain way” so that tampering with the booklets themselves is either impossible or immediately obvious, he said.

From there, the test booklets are delivered to pre-vetted test administrators and school principals, who have gone thorough an ETS training and who must, in turn, provide ETS with assurance that the tests will be kept in a locked and secured location. In some instances, ETS has arranged to have the test booklets hand-delivered by a ETS employee on the day of the test.

On test day, a host of precautions are also in place. For example, ETS requires test takers to upload a photo of themselves when they register for the exam and then provide on test day a photo ID that matches both their registration photograph and their appearance. Test takers are also required to provide a handwriting sample that can be used should any subsequent investigation be necessary.

In most locations, ETS does not search students for cell phones or other digital devices, but if a proctor sees or hears a digital device, the student is immediately dismissed from the test, his scores are canceled, and a review is launched. In areas where cheating is suspected, ETS also sometimes deploys undercover investigators—employees in their late teens or early twenties who pretend to be test-takers—in order to “get the birds’ eye view of what’s going on without raising any eyebrows,” Nicosia said. At the end of tests, students are required to leave all testing materials behind.

All told, while the extent of cheating efforts is probably “extremely overblown in people’s imaginations,” Nicosia said his team takes every tip, allegation or rumor “very, very seriously.” “Whatever challenge is next, we’re looking for it,” he said.

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