Lawmakers introduce compromise encryption bill

Lawmakers introduce compromise encryption bill

A bipartisan pair of lawmakers on Monday introduced legislation to establish a national commission exploring how police can get at encrypted data without endangering Americans’ privacy.

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The measure, from House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenate panel moves forward with bill to roll back Dodd-Frank Comey back in the spotlight after Flynn makes a deal Warner: Every week another shoe drops in Russia investigation MORE (D-Va.), comes as Apple is fiercely opposing a court order requiring it to help the FBI unlock the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters.

“The challenge of protecting national security and digital security simultaneously is complex. The ongoing Apple vs. FBI dispute is only a symptom of a much larger problem. But we are almost certain to see this scenario repeated unless the larger issue is addressed,” McCaul said in a Monday statement.

The bill is intended to cut through the heated rhetoric that has defined the encryption debate in the wake of the terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif.

The FBI and law enforcement officials have warned that extremists are increasingly using encrypted platforms to “go dark” and hide their plans from authorities. They are calling on tech companies to provide investigators with guaranteed access to secure data.

But the tech industry and privacy advocates have resisted. They insist such guarantees would create “backdoors,” or security vulnerabilities, that hackers and spies could exploit.

The McCaul-Warner commission would consist of 16 members, including tech industry executives, privacy advocates, cryptologists, law enforcement officials and members of the intelligence community.

Modeled after the 9/11 Commission, the group would have six months to create an interim report, and a year to deliver its full findings. Its scope would expand beyond encryption, exploring more broadly how authorities can maintain security with the proliferation of modern technology.

The bill has drawn a broad bipartisan group of co-sponsors that includes Sens. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerDems look to use Moore against GOP McConnell: 'No change of heart' on Roy Moore US trade deficit rises on record imports from China MORE (R-CO), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Health Care: 3.6M signed up for ObamaCare in first month | Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' next year | Dems push for more money to fight opioids Study: ObamaCare bills backed by Collins would lower premiums Right scrambles GOP budget strategy MORE (R-Maine), Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetAvalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign GOP and Dems bitterly divided by immigration Schumer downplays shutdown chances over DACA fight MORE (D-Colo.), Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoSenate women: Rules on harassment must change Congress, here's a CO2-smart tax fix to protect, create jobs Women, Dems leading sexual harassment discussion in Congress: analysis MORE (R-W.Va.), Angus KingAngus Stanley KingTrump rips Dems a day ahead of key White House meeting Trump pushing Maine gov to run for Senate: report Schumer: Franken should resign MORE (I-Maine) and Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerDems look to use Moore against GOP Senate hearing shows Fed chair nominee acts the part Senate GOP votes to begin debate on tax bill MORE (R-Nev.), as well as a further 15 lawmakers in the House.

McCaul and Warner’s offering is one of several pieces of encryption legislation circulating both chambers, some of which support the FBI’s position and some of which support the stance of technologists and privacy advocates.

The commission is seen as a compromise measure and has arguably drawn the most support of the various offerings.

The bill’s backers have been bullish on its prospects, even going so far as to suggest it will get White House support. The administration has been mostly mum on the subject of encryption since backing away from supporting any legislative proposal last fall — although it is expected to announce an updated policy in light of the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, Calif., and Paris.

The technology community was quick to offer their support to the offering.

“The significant risk associated with this issue demands a thoughtful and deliberate response,” said Mark MacCarthy, Senior Vice President of Public Policy at the Software and Information Industry Association.

“Without a thorough and informed examination of the threats, Congress must avoid legislating new technology requirements — requirements that could ultimately harm national security more than help,” he said.