US lawmakers call Apple, FBI to encryption hearing

February 25, 2016

US lawmakers Thursday called a hearing next week on encryption, saying they hope to craft "a solution" to the standoff between Apple and law enforcement over accessing locked devices.

The hearing called by the House Judiciary Committee for next Tuesday will be the first in Congress since Apple said it would challenge a court order to help unlock an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino attackers.

"Our goal is to find a solution that allows to effectively enforce the law without harming the competitiveness of US encryption providers or the privacy protections of US citizens," said a statement from Judiciary chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Republican from Virginia, and ranking Democrat John Conyers of Michigan.

The panel has already held a briefing from technology companies and a classified briefing from the government on the issue.

The debate has divided the public as the FBI seeks to get Apple's assistance in unlocking an iPhone used by one of the perpetrators of the December attack in San Bernardino, California that killed 14.

Apple has said the would effectively require the company to "hack" its own device and would open a "backdoor" that could be exploited by others.

FBI officials have disputed the claim, saying the order affects only one iPhone. But Apple has noted that several similar cases are pending in US courts.

Earlier Thursday, FBI Director James Comey reiterated his position at a hearing on Capitol Hill.

"The San Bernardino litigation is not about us trying to send a message or establish some kind of precedent," Comey told lawmakers at the House Intelligence Committee.

"It's about trying to be competent in investigating something that is an active investigation."

The phone at the center of the standoff belonged to Syed Farook, a US citizen, who carried out the attack on an office party in San Bernardino along with his Pakistani wife Tashfeen Malik.

In his latest comments on the matter, Apple chief Tim Cook said breaking into the iPhone in the name of fighting terrorism would be "bad for America."

"It is a precedent that should not be done in this country, or in any country," he told ABC News on Wednesday.

Comey said the question of whether tech firms should be able to create tamper-proof encryption was the "hardest question" he had ever seen in government.

"It's going to require negotiations and conversation," he said.

Comey noted that while encryption is attractive in principle, law enforcement must have some sort of continued access to information to keep the public safe.

"Law enforcement really saves people lives," he said. "We do that a whole lot through court orders that are search warrants."

Comey told lawmakers the public should understand "the costs associated with moving to a world of universal strong encryption."

Explore further: Apple encryption fracas about 'victims and justice': FBI chief

Related Stories

FBI chief: Apple issues are hardest he's seen in government

February 25, 2016

The policy issues raised in the Justice Department's dispute with Apple Inc. over a locked iPhone represent the "hardest question I've seen in government, and it's going to require negotiation and conversation," FBI Director ...

Apple says expert panel should take up encryption issue

February 22, 2016

Apple said Monday it supports the idea of a panel of experts to consider access to encrypted devices if US authorities drop legal efforts to force it to help break into the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino attackers.

Recommended for you

HSBC, ING banks announce blockchain first

May 14, 2018

Banking giants HSBC and ING on Monday said they had carried out a landmark blockchain transaction aimed at speeding up payment processes and making them more secure.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.