Live from Music Row Thursday morning on the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Sen. Marsha Blackburn to the newsmakers line.
During the third hour, Blackburn explained her bill called the Open Technology Fund Authorization Act which would provide safeguards as more Americans move online with their work and transactions. She added that it was important to protect what she calls our “virtual view” while China shows increased proof of global domination.
Leahy: We are joined now by our good friend, United States Senator Marsha Blackburn. Good morning Senator Blackburn.
Blackburn: Good morning! How are you doing?
Leahy: Great. Every time I have you on my adult daughter says I remember meeting her at the Thompson’s Station Firehouse when she ran for the state Senate back in 1998. I went to vote there Marsha and there was one person at a little fold-up table sitting there talking to voters. Guess who it was? It was you!
Blackburn: You are exactly right and I’ve always felt that staying in constant contact with Tennesseans and with our constituents is just as important and we work diligently to do that every single day.
Leahy: My daughter was just a young child then and just starting elementary school. She’s an adult now and she says, “I remember that.” It leaves an impression on children about what representative democracy is about.
Blackburn: You are exactly right about that. And every single day, every single day we try to make certain that we are responding to constituents. We are listening to them. We are paying close attention to what they are telling us. That is the only way to be sure that taking those ideas and thoughts and we get great ideas that come from Tennesseans. Great ideas that come from them every single day.
Leahy: You have a new bill out there introduced last week to fight digital authoritarianism in China and Russia. Tell us about that.
Blackburn: One of the things that we know is that as more and more of our transactional life has moved online what you see happening is as Big Tech and China takes more control of ownership of the virtual view as I call it. Pushing back on this as you know this is an issue that I have been on for years.
It’s looking at Big Tech and their coziness with China. We are looking at how China is using technology to literally build a database of you and your life and your images. Every single day we are fighting them on how they intrude in your privacy. You should be the one that owns your virtual.
Now as China tries to move forward with their Beijing road initiative with great competition and global domination, which is their choice and their goal. We have to say is, “Ok how do we fight this? And the way we fight it is to make certain that much of that supply chain we bring back and interfaces with other countries and that we are protecting Americans’ privacy.”
We will continue to do this. This push that you have going on against China right now and for accountability for the American online consumer is really to protect privacy and to make certain that individuals are not harmed by some of that activity that takes place online by outside groups.
Leahy: So your bill is called the Open Technology Fund Authorization Act. And as you often do, you have co-sponsors on the Democratic side and on the Republican side.
Blackburn: That’s right.
Leahy: Senator Rick Scott of Florida a Republican. Senator Ron Widen of Oregon and Bob Menendez co-sponsored the bill would establish 55 million in appropriations to basically develop a group that would develop and maintain technologies to circumvent authoritarian governments to restrict internet freedom. Who’s not for that?
Blackburn: We think that everyone should be for that. This is a bi-partisan initiative not only in the Senate but also in the House. And you have bi-partisan co-sponsors of this in the House. So we are looking forward to pushing this. We think its a national security issue.
Our friends in the House also view it as a national security issue. You see Homeland Security Chairman and ranking member are the two primary sponsors in the House. But here again, we have to put up the guardrails and make certain that we are not going to be exposing our presence online. Our virtual view as I said. And exposing that to bad actors.
Leahy: So the chances that the Open Technology Fund Authorization Act that you’ve sponsored gets passed this session, it seems to me look pretty good.
Blackburn: Yes. We think it looks pretty good. And bear in mind, this is just one of the series of things that I am doing when it comes to technology and the online space. Senator Markey and I have some things and Senator Menendez and I have some things.
And pushing these forward to make certain that we protect our companies and their intellectual property is protected. That we bring supply chains back here. That our consumers are protected in the online space. And that we are hardening our defenses against this intellectual property theft.
These privacy intrusions and things of that nature. Because what you know and what you and I see every single day is more and more companies are having their employees working from home. More companies are going to allow certain employees to continue to work from home.
And you’ve got a reshaping of the American workplace at this point in time and as we broaden the use of technology, look at what you’re dealing with telehealth. I have tried to get passed for three years was included in the CARES Act and we are hearing such a great response to that from our rural hospitals and rural health care delivery systems.
And those that are dealing with homebound individuals and with elderly individuals, telehealth is going to be a luxury and it turned out to be a safety item. So we are going to continue to try to shore up the hardening of our systems so that we protect consumers and companies.
Leahy: If you could give us a brief comment about the breaking news about Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Hong Kong is no longer an independent entity and that the Chinese have taken it over. I think that’s big news and an indication that China wants to control everything including Hong Kong.
Blackburn: You got it. That’s exactly right. They are looking for global domination. They look at this as a 100-year marathon. And they have talked much in terms of the China dream. And what they were willing to do to achieve that global domination. That is their goal they continue to push forward to this.
And what we are going to have to do is to be very aware that as they push into the South China Sea with roughly done with their deepwater Navy and taking those islands and establishing their ports. They have tried to push into every economic sector that we have whether there is the consumer of technology or pharmaceuticals. They have tried to increase their grasp. And they own over a trillion dollars of our debt. That is what they hold in our debt.
Leahy: When I look at China Senator Blackburn and I’m reminded of the old saying by Nikita Khrushchev who was the communist leader of Russia he said,”What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is negotiable.” That’s what Chinese seems like to me.
Blackburn: You are precisely right on that. That is where their stance is. They feel as if they are the manufacturers then they should be the ones in charge of the intellectual property.
Leahy: Senator Marsha Blackburn, thank you so much for joining us here on The Tennessee Star Report.
Listen to the full third hour here:
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