Clinton hints at support for bipartisan encryption proposal

Clinton hints at support for bipartisan encryption proposal
© Getty Images

Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonUSPS warns Pennsylvania mail-in ballots may not be delivered in time to be counted Senate leaves until September without coronavirus relief deal Gloria Steinem: Selection of Kamala Harris recognizes that 'black women ... are the heart and soul of the Democratic Party' MORE on Wednesday appeared to lend her support to a bipartisan proposal that would create a national commission to study encryption.

“There may be no quick or magic fix,” Clinton said in a policy speech on her strategy to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).


“A National Commission on Encryption, like Senator Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHillicon Valley: 'Fortnite' owner sues Apple after game is removed from App Store | Federal agencies seize, dismantle cryptocurrency campaigns of major terrorist organizations Election security advocates see strong ally in Harris Democrats ramp up warnings on Russian election meddling MORE and Congressman Mike McCaul are proposing, could help” the tech community and the government work together to find a solution to what's being called the “going dark” problem, she said.

Clinton noted that although the FBI may have found a work-around in its bid to force Apple to unlock the iPhone of San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook, “there will be future cases with different facts and different challenges.”

Apple is currently opposing a court order demanding that it help investigators break into Farook’s phone by disabling a key security feature.

But on Monday, the FBI called off the first hearing in the case, saying that a "non-governmental third party" had found a possible method to break into the device without Apple’s help.

The agency said that it was “cautiously optimistic” that it would work.

The development could bring an unexpectedly abrupt end to the tense legal battle over Farook’s phone, but is unlikely to resolve the underlying dispute over encrypted communications.

The case is seen as a proxy for a larger debate over the degree of access law enforcement agencies should be guaranteed into encrypted communications.

Lawmakers and investigators say authorities are increasingly blind to these plots because of extremists’ use of encryption.

While all sides agree that major terror groups like ISIS are gravitating toward encrypted messaging apps and secure devices, the exact role the technology played in each individual attack remains unknown.

Clinton tipped her hat to both sides of the debate on Wednesday.

“Impenetrable encryption provides significant cybersecurity advantages, but may also make it harder for law enforcement and counterterrorism professionals to investigate plots and prevent future attacks. ISIS knows this too,” she said.

“At the same time, there are legitimate worries about privacy, network security, and creating new vulnerabilities that bad actors, including terrorists, can exploit.”

Congress broadly is grappling with whether — and how — it should proceed with encryption legislation.

A bill from Sens. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrHillicon Valley: Facebook removed over 22 million posts for hate speech in second quarter | Republicans introduce bill to defend universities against hackers targeting COVID-19 research | Facebook's Sandberg backs Harris as VP pick Republicans set sights on FBI chief as Russia probe investigations ramp up Davis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump MORE (R-N.C.) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenators ask for removal of tariffs on EU food, wine, spirits: report Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Yates spars with GOP at testy hearing MORE (D-Calif.), the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee, would force companies to decrypt data upon government request.

Meanwhile, two House committees on Monday established a separate congressional encryption working group to look into possible solutions.

McCaul maintains his effort can co-exist with the working group.

“They’re not mutually exclusive,” he told The Hill. “It may be this working group could have good recommendations that this commission idea that I’ve proposed could take into account.”