Top GOP senator backs encryption commission bill

Top GOP senator backs encryption commission bill

A top Senate leader is throwing his support behind a compromise bill on encryption, possibly helping the measure gain momentum in the upper chamber.

Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGOP senators eager for Romney to join them The House needs to help patients from being victimized by antiquated technology Comey’s original Clinton memo released, cites possible violations MORE (R-Wis.) on Wednesday told The Hill that he planned to back legislation to create a national commission to study how law enforcement can access secure data without endangering Americans’ privacy.

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“I’m going to be supportive of the commission bill,” Johnson said.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerNSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Dem lawmaker wants briefing on major chip vulnerabilities Week ahead: Tech giants to testify on extremist content MORE (D-Va.) introduced the bill on Monday.

Johnson gives McCaul and Warner a critical ally in the Senate, given the Homeland Security Committee’s jurisdiction over domestic safety issues.

The duo’s national commission plan is meant as an alternative to legislation that would force companies to help unlock secure devices under court order. Sens. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrNSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Senate Intel chairman: No need for committee to interview Bannon McConnell: Russia probe must stay bipartisan to be credible MORE (R-N.C.) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinDHS chief takes heat over Trump furor NSA spying program overcomes key Senate hurdle Democrats will need to explain if they shut government down over illegal immigration MORE (D-Calif.) — the Intelligence Committee leaders — have been drafting such a bill for several months.

McCaul and Warner fear the Burr-Feinstein approach would be ineffective, potentially weakening security and damaging global competitiveness for American tech firms.

Instead, the pair want a national commission to study how authorities can maintain security with the proliferation of modern technology.The group would bring together privacy advocates, technologists and law enforcement officials to create technological and legislative proposals within a year.

Encryption has been a hot topic on Capitol Hill since Apple defied an FBI-requested court order seeking help unlocking an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters.

The standoff is the most high-profile incident of a long-feared scenario.

Law enforcement officials have been warning that encryption is increasingly helping terrorists and criminals “go dark” and hide from investigators. They want tech companies to provide investigators with some type of guaranteed access to locked data.

But the tech community has resisted, arguing that unbreakable security is integral to digital security and online privacy.

With the two sides at loggerheads, lawmakers on both sides of the argument increasingly believe Capitol Hill must settle the debate with legislation.

But they haven’t been able to decide what that legislation should look like.

The Burr-Feinstein proposal hasn’t been released yet, but the idea hasn’t gained much traction in the House or Senate.

In January, Johnson indicated he had concerns about the Burr-Feinstein efforts, arguing that the bill might “do more harm than good.”

“Is it really going to solve any problems if we force our companies to do something here in the U.S.?” he asked. “It’s just going to move offshore. Determined actors, terrorists, are still going to be able to find a service provider that will be able to encrypt accounts.”

The duo also rolled out their bill with a broad bipartisan group of co-sponsors that includes Sens. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerDurbin: Senators to release immigration bill Wednesday GOP senators eager for Romney to join them Gardner: Bipartisan DACA solution possible despite Trump's 's---hole countries' comment MORE (R-Colo.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsDemocrats search for 51st net neutrality vote Overnight Tech: States sue FCC over net neutrality repeal | Senate Dems reach 50 votes on measure to override repeal | Dems press Apple on phone slowdowns, kids' health | New Android malware found Overnight Regulation: Dems claim 50 votes in Senate to block net neutrality repeal | Consumer bureau takes first step to revising payday lending rule | Trump wants to loosen rules on bank loans | Pentagon, FDA to speed up military drug approvals MORE (R-Maine), Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetDurbin: Senators to release immigration bill Wednesday Trump's 's---hole' controversy shows no sign of easing Dem senator: 'No question' Trump's 's---hole countries' comment is racist MORE (D-Colo.), Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoGOP may increase IRS’s budget People with addiction issues should be able to control their own health data Trump signs bipartisan bill to combat synthetic opioids MORE (R-W.Va.), Angus KingAngus Stanley KingMcConnell to Dems: Don't hold government 'hostage' over DACA Overnight Regulation: Regulators kill Perry plan to help coal, nuke plants | Senate Dems to force net neutrality vote | Maine senators oppose offshore drilling plan | SEC halts trading in digital currency firm Maine senators oppose Trump's offshore drilling plans MORE (I-Maine) and Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerDemocrats search for 51st net neutrality vote Nevada Dems unveil 2018 campaign mascot: 'Mitch McTurtle' Senate campaign fundraising reports roll in MORE (R-Nev.), as well as 15 lawmakers in the House.