White House denies reports it won't support encryption bill

White House denies reports it won't support encryption bill
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The White House on Thursday denied reports that it will not offer its support to a controversial bill that would give law enforcement access to encrypted data.


“I saw that report and I don’t know what it’s based on,” Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz told reporters on Air Force One. “The idea that we’re going to withhold support for a bill that’s not introduced yet is inaccurate.”

Sens. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrEmboldened Trump takes aim at GOP foes NC Republican primary key test of Trump's sway The 19 GOP senators who voted for the T infrastructure bill MORE (R-N.C.) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinRepublicans caught in California's recall trap F-35 fighter jets may fall behind adversaries, House committee warns Warren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack MORE (D-Calif.), the leaders of the Intelligence Committee, are set to publicly release a draft of the legislation in question sometime Thursday or Friday, according to Burr.

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

The legislation has gained some momentum in the wake of the back-to-back terrorist attacks on Paris and San Bernardino, Calif. late last year and the subsequent fight between Apple and the FBI over a locked iPhone. 

Although law enforcement officials have long warned of the dangers of “warrant-proof” encryption, privacy advocates and technologists say such legislation would undermine online security and privacy.

The Obama administration last year internally considered, and then dismissed, several similar legislative proposals.

Some see the White House gravitating toward greater support of robust encryption. The administration for months has been poised to unveil a long-term policy vision on the issue, which privacy advocates hope will include a strong opposition to any legislation that would weaken encryption.

“We support strong encryption. We believe it’s a key for cybersecurity, for innovation and to protect people’s privacy,” Schultz said Thursday. “At the same time, we want to make sure we don’t allow terrorists a safe haven to operate in cyberspace.”

Shortly before the Senate left town for a two-week recess in March, Feinstein passed an initial draft to White House chief of staff Denis McDonoughDenis Richard McDonoughVeteran suicides dropped to lowest level in 12 years Veterans grapple with new Afghanistan: 'Was my service worth it?' VA adds 245K more employees to vaccine mandate MORE.

Earlier this week, Burr indicated he had integrated some administration edits into the upcoming draft.

“I think it’s safe to say we’ve incorporated everybody who’s commented on it,” he told reporters.

Feinstein told reporters on Thursday that the latest draft of the bill had been sent back to the White House for review.

“Yesterday, I sent a copy to [McDonough],” she said. “He indicated to me that the staff is going to look at it, discuss it with the president next week. So we’ll see.”

Schultz did not tip his hand on the administration’s official response to the bill.

“As it pertains to this particular piece of legislation, I am sure we will take a look at what they are proposing and be in touch,” he said.