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Senate Intel panel closes in on encryption bill

Senate Intel panel closes in on encryption bill
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The Senate Intelligence Committee could review a draft of its controversial encryption bill as soon as Wednesday, Chairman Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrOn The Money: Biden extends eviction moratorium, student loan forbearance | Stocks hit record highs on Biden's first day as president | Justice Dept. closes insider trading case against Burr The Hill's Morning Report - President Biden, Vice President Harris begin work today Justice Dept. closes insider trading case against Burr without charges MORE (R-N.C.) told The Hill.

“I think we closed the technical gaps last night,” he said, heading into a Wednesday caucus meeting. “I’m hoping we get it out to our members in the committee today.”

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The measure — a response to concerns that criminals are increasingly using encrypted devices to hide from authorities — would require firms to comply with court orders seeking access to locked data.

Burr said he anticipates publicly releasing a draft sometime Thursday or Friday.

While law enforcement has long pressed Congress for such legislation, the tech community and privacy advocates warn that it would undermine their security and endanger online privacy.

The bill — once thought to be a nonstarter — has gained some momentum in the wake of the terror attacks in Brussels, Paris and San Bernardino, Calif.

In each instance, officials said they believed encryption helped the attackers cover up their plots, although little concrete evidence has been presented to back up the claims.

Still, the Senate Intel bill — which Burr worked on with Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSchumer becomes new Senate majority leader Democrats torn on impeachment trial timing Justice Dept. closes insider trading case against Burr without charges MORE (D-Calif.), the committee’s ranking member — faces long odds in the upper chamber.

Other prominent committee heads, such as Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonGOP senators call for commission to investigate Capitol attack Wisconsin Democrats make ad buy calling on Johnson to resign Efforts to secure elections likely to gain ground in Democrat-controlled Congress MORE (R-Wis.), have thrown their support behind an alternative measure that would establish a national commission to study the subject.

That offering, from House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerBipartisan Senate gang to talk with Biden aide on coronavirus relief Social media posts, cellphone data aid law enforcement investigations into riots 'Almost Heaven, West Virginia' — Joe Manchin and a 50-50 Senate MORE (D-Va.), was introduced in February with seven additional bipartisan co-sponsors in the Senate.

Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSenate Democrats file ethics complaint against Hawley, Cruz over Capitol attack With a new president and a new Congress, it's time for Medicare drug price negotiation The Hill's Morning Report - President Biden, Vice President Harris begin work today MORE (D-Ore.), a vocal privacy advocate on the Intelligence panel, has also vowed to do “use every power” to block legislation that would weaken encryption.