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 WarnerNRCC breach exposes gaps 2 years after Russia hacks Hillicon Valley: Huawei executive facing possible US fraud charges | Dem blames White House for failure of election security bill | FCC investigating wireless carriers over coverage data | Assange rejects deal to leave embassy Warner blames White House for election security bill not passing Congress 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 GardnerCan a rising tide of female legislators lift all boats? Setting the record straight about No Labels Overnight Health Care: Senators urge vote on delaying health insurance tax | Joe Kennedy III 'hopeful' he can back 'Medicare for all' bill | Latest Ebola outbreak becomes world's 2nd-worst MORE (R-CO), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenators want assurances from attorney general pick on fate of Mueller probe 5 themes to watch for in 2020 fight for House Judd Gregg: The last woman standing MORE (R-Maine), Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetWould-be 2020 Dem candidates head for the exits The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — What the Michael Flynn news means California primary threatens to change 2020 game for Dems MORE (D-Colo.), Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Wellons Moore CapitoDole salute embodies emotion of Bush farewell Hispanic Caucus sets red lines on DHS spending bill Republican leaders seek to calm shutdown worries MORE (R-W.Va.), Angus KingAngus Stanley KingDems have new moniker for Trump: ‘Unindicted co-conspirator' Maine senator calls impeachment 'last resort': 'We may get there, but we’re not there now' Maine senator: Flynn filing should make White House most nervous MORE (I-Maine) and Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerWhite House jumps into fight over energy subsidies One last fight for Sen. Orrin Hatch Trump threatens to cut federal incentives for GM’s electric cars 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.