Capitol Watch: Cuomo on terror, Kolb in the race

December 16, 2017 - 12:29 pm


In New York state government and politics, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is asking whether internet providers should be monitoring who visits websites promoting violence and terror.

The Democrat pitched the idea following the recent bungled subway terror attack in New York City. Authorities say the suspect became radicalized through the internet. The idea worries civil libertarians who say government monitoring of online activities raises privacy concerns.

Meanwhile, Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb is the first Republican in the race for governor, entering an uphill fight against Cuomo, a prodigious fundraiser whose party has a big advantage in New York.

Also, a new state law requires the state to pay the legal costs when it loses a public records case, a change government watchdogs say could lead to greater transparency.


In New York state government and politics, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo asks whether Internet providers should be monitoring who visits sites promoting violence and terror.

Meanwhile, the first Republican candidate for governor has emerged, and a new state law will make the state cover the cost of legal fights when it improperly withholds public information.

A look at stories making news:


Cuomo, mentioned as a possible White House contender in 2020, raised concerns among civil libertarians when he said the recent subway terror attack shows it might be time for internet service providers to raise red flags when people download bomb-making instructions.

"Anyone can go on the internet and download garbage and vileness on how to put together an amateur-level explosive device, and that is the reality we live with," Cuomo said at a news conference following the bungled attack.

Federal officials say the suspect, Akayed Ullah, became radicalized through the internet and was inspired by Islamic State extremists.

The governor told cable news interviewers Ullah likely learned to make his low-tech explosive device online. He said technology companies know who frequents sites promoting violence and suggested they alert authorities if someone downloads information on how to kill people.

This summer, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and Google-owned YouTube launched a joint counterterrorism initiative to remove extremist content. But monitoring and reporting individual users' online activities raises privacy concerns.

"Rightly or wrongly, the police already monitor public information on the internet," said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. "If they want more private information, they should secure a warrant. That is what our Constitution demands to protect privacy."



Brian Kolb became the first Republican to officially enter the 2018 race for governor last week and says he isn't daunted by Cuomo's advantages when it comes to fundraising, name recognition and party loyalty.

Kolb, of Canandaigua, was first elected in 2000 and has served as Assembly minority leader since 2009.

Cuomo has yet to formally kick off his campaign for a third term, but he's already set a pace for fundraising that will be difficult for any opponent to match. According to the most recent state filings, Cuomo has $26 million in his campaign account, compared to Kolb's $255,000. Democrats have a 2-to-1 advantage in voter enrollment over the Republicans.

Kolb shrugs it off, saying campaigns are won and lost by candidates and ideas, not numbers.

"I really think I can win, as crazy as that sounds," he told The Associated Press.



A new state law will require the state to pay the legal costs when it loses a public records case.

The legislation signed by Cuomo on Wednesday had been pushed by government watchdogs who say citizens shouldn't have to pay a lawyer to access public information — and forcing state agencies to cover the legal bills might make officials think twice before they withhold a document.

Under the previous law, it was up to a judge to decide whether to force the state to pay the legal fees.

"No New Yorker should be forced to pay thousands of dollars in legal expenses just to get public records," said Brandon Muir, executive director of the organization Reclaim New York.

Critics of the state's open records law, including Cuomo, say more improvements are needed, such as extending the law to fully cover the state Legislature. Cuomo said he will again support legislation next year that would do just that.


AP reporter Mary Esch contributed to this report.

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