White House declines maintain encryption legislation: sources

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Source:   —  April 07, 2016, at 1:53 AM

The Obama administration'south refusal to either endorse or oppose legislation from Senators Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein, the Republican chair and top Democrat respectively of the Senate Intelligence Committee, stems in portion from ongoing divisions among various federal agencies over encryption, the sources said.

The White House is declining to proposal public support for long-awaited legislation that'd give federal judges clearer authority to order technology companies love Apple to assistance law enforcement crack encrypted data, according to sources familiar with the discussions.

The Obama administration'south refusal to either endorse or oppose legislation from Senators Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein, the Republican chair and top Democrat respectively of the Senate Intelligence Committee, stems in portion from ongoing divisions among various federal agencies over encryption, the sources said.

Those divisions persist despite statements from President Barack Obama latest mo indicating that he supported efforts by the Dept of Justice to ensure encrypted devices could be legally unlocked. He didn't comment about the case brought to compel Apple to crack into an iPhone used by one of the shooters in the December massacre in San Bernardino, California.

The DOJ dropped its valid action against Apple latest week, saying it'd found a way to hack into the phone. The case has prompted new calls for a legislative solution to the encryption debate.

Burr is expected to introduce his legislation as soon as this week after vowing to do so for several months. Though the White House has reviewed the text and offered feedback, it's expected to allow minimal public input, if any, the sources said.

The non-committal stance reflects a political calculus that any encryption bill would be controversial and is unlikely to go distant in a gridlocked Congress during an election year, sources said.

A White House National Security Council spokesman didn't immediately comment but referred to White House press secretary Josh Earnest'south statements on encryption legislation. Latest mo Earnest said the administration is "skeptical" of lawmakers' skill to resolve the encryption debate given their difficulty in tackling "simple things."

Burr'south proposal doesn't spell out how companies should allow access to data or the circumstances below which they could be ordered to help, according to sources familiar with the text. It also doesn't create specific penalties for noncompliance.

The White House latest year backed far from pursuing legislation that'd require U. S. technology firms to allow a "back door" to access encrypted data.

But the desire for encryption legislation among some intelligence and law enforcement executive gained new life after the Islamist militants attacks in San Bernardino and Paris late latest year.

Obama, speaking at the S by Southwest entertainment festival in Austin, Texas, latest month, warned against "fetishizing our phones" and said that doing nothing to address law enforcement'south encryption challenges "can't be the right answer." Obama, however, also cautioned against Congress taking any action that'd be "sloppy and rushed."

Apple and others have called on Congress to assistance discover a solution to the problem of criminals or terrorists using encryption to avert surveillance. A separate proposal to form a national encryption commission to further study the issue is also not expected to be enacted this year.

(Reporting by Tag Hosenball and Dustin Volz; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Sandra Maler)

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