Apple chief, FBI director asked to testify before House panel

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The head of the FBI and CEO of Apple were invited to testify before a House committee on Friday, following days of heated rhetoric.

FBI Director James Comey and Apple chief Tim Cook should appear in Congress to discuss the “critical juncture” in the debate over encryption technology, following a court order that Apple help the FBI hack into one of its protected iPhones.

“These are difficult issues that present complicated questions relating to privacy, security and law enforcement’s need to access evidence to further its investigations,” leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee wrote in separate letters.

“Over the last year, with the growing availability and adoption of strong encryption measures by commercial technology providers, there has been an increasingly public and heated debate about the costs and benefits of encryption technologies, in particular, the impact these technologies have on law enforcement’s capabilities to investigate criminal conduct.”

The hearing should occur “at the committee’s earlier opportunity,” the lawmakers wrote.

Friday afternoon’s letter comes days after a headline-grabbing order from a federal judge in California demanding that Apple create new software allowing the FBI to bypass security mechanisms on an iPhone belonging to one of the two people behind December’s terror attack in San Bernardino, Calif. FBI officials have not been able to gain access to data on the device, more than two months after it has been in their possession.

Apple has fiercely resisted the call, claiming that the order would create a “back door” that jeopardizes people’s privacy.

The standoff is likely to grow in coming weeks, and appears primed to turn into a test case about the government’s powers to force tech companies to access their users’ data. 

Already, the rhetoric has become heated.

On Friday, GOP presidential front-runner Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump to lay out first 100 days in Gettysburg speech GOP senator: Dems making ‘concerted effort to produce fraudulent votes’ Trump touts Navy expansion proposal in Pa. MORE called for his supporters to “boycott” Apple, one of the world’s most profitable companies, until it assists the FBI.