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 JohnsonOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — House passes 'right to try' drug bill | Trump moves to restrict abortion referrals House approves 'right to try,' sends bill to Trump's desk Senate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA 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 WarnerConservatives leery of FBI deal on informant Overnight Finance: House sends Dodd-Frank rollbacks to Trump | What's in the bill | Trump says there is 'no deal' to help ZTE | Panel approves bill to toughen foreign investment reviews DHS secretary says she hasn’t seen assessment that Russia interfered to help Trump win 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 BurrConservatives leery of FBI deal on informant Senate confirms Haspel to head CIA The Hill's Morning Report: Mueller probe hits one-year mark MORE (R-N.C.) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinFormer US attorneys urge support for Trump nominee The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Republicans see some daylight in midterm polling Senate panel clears bill to bolster probes of foreign investment deals 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 GardnerSenate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA Trump makes Manchin top target for midterms Wyden: I object to Trump’s DHS cyber nomination over demands for Stingray information MORE (R-Colo.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — VA reform bill heads to Trump's desk Senate panel to consider ban on prescription drug 'gag clauses' Pressure rising on GOP after Trump–DOJ fight’s latest turn MORE (R-Maine), Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetGOP, Dem lawmakers come together for McCain documentary Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Trump official won't OK lifetime limits on Medicaid Hillicon Valley: White House eliminates top cyber post | Trump order looks to bolster agency CIOs | Facebook sees spike in violent content | Senators push NIH on tech addiction | House to get election security briefing MORE (D-Colo.), Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoPa. health secretary: 'Sustainable funding' needed to attack opioid crisis Senate panel unanimously approves water infrastructure bill The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — How long can a Trump-DOJ accord survive? MORE (R-W.Va.), Angus KingAngus Stanley KingFor .2 billion, taxpayers should get more than Congress’s trial balloons Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Trump hits federally funded clinics with new abortion restrictions Dem senators ask drug companies to list prices in ads MORE (I-Maine) and Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerKennedy retirement rumors shift into overdrive McConnell: Midterms will be 'very challenging' for GOP Singer Jason Mraz: Too much political 'combat' in Washington MORE (R-Nev.), as well as 15 lawmakers in the House.