Encryption bill aims to settle the likes of Apple vs. FBI
Members of Congress say they'll introduce a bill next week that would create a commission to help federal agents catch terrorists who are using encrypted devices, without sacrificing privacy or security.
Terry CollinsStaff Reporter, CNET News
Terry writes about social networking giants and legal issues in Silicon Valley for CNET News. He joined CNET News from the Associated Press, where he spent the six years covering major breaking news in the San Francisco Bay Area. Before the AP, Terry worked at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis and the Kansas City Star. Terry's a native of Chicago.
As Apple battles with the Justice Department over creating a backdoor into a terrorist's iPhone, two lawmakers say they want to create a commission that hopefully gets to the crux of such matters.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Virginia) said Wednesday they'll introduce a bill in Congress next week seeking to form a commission tasked with addressing issues on digital security that have put authorities and private companies at odds.
Speaking at a forum at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, DC., the politicians said they think the commission will get bipartisan support because it would not only offer recommendations on how to address law enforcement request for access to encrypted data, but also on how to keep data safe for all US citizens.
"We need to find a solution to a Paris-style attack where terrorists are using end-to-end encryption that doesn't create a backdoor criminals and other adversaries can use to compromise data security," said, McCaul, who is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
A federal court in Southern California has given Apple until Friday to say whether it will comply or refuse Judge Sheri Pym's order to help the FBI access the iPhone used by Syed Farook, the gunman in the San Bernardino, California, shooting that killed 14 people and injured 22 others in December.
McCaul and Warner, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, say while Apple's fight with the government is timely, the congressmen have been working on the idea of a commission since late last year. Warner said the purpose of the commission is far broader than Apple and the government. Encryption is here to stay and "part of the fabric of American security," he said, but making sure "we have legal ways to go after criminals and terrorists in an appropriate legal fashion is absolutely necessary."
Bringing relevant stakeholders, including experts in technology, law enforcement, legal, civil liberties and intelligence, together in the same room is critical, Warner added. He fears those entities are adversaries "talking past each other," instead of finding some common ground.
"The (digital security issue) will ultimately have to be decided by Congress," he said. McCaul added that encryption is "the biggest challenge for federal law enforcement in my lifetime."
Apple would no doubt be a willing participant in such a commission. CEO Tim Cook on Monday said in an email to employees that he wants Congress to form a commission to "discuss the implications for law enforcement, national security, privacy and personal freedoms."
The lawmakers believe the bill will be fast-tracked through Congress. The commission, which would be modeled after a bipartisan commission that investigated what happened following the September 11 terrorist attacks, will have a year to come up with solutions.
They believe that the commission's findings will set the standard for other countries to follow. If not, it could turn into the "balkanization of the Internet," Warner said.