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The politics and the Cyberspace
Post-Paris Attacks: Governments Push for Access to Encrypted
The Future of Encryption Is in These Politicians’ Hands
 Autor: Old Golcs Berlin 2012
WIRED, USA deutsch

The Future of Encryption Is in These Politicians’ Hands

Encryption is complicated. Legislating for it, even more so. But after years of shrugging off the issue, Congress finally seems motivated to create a legal framework for one of our most critical digital security features. Here’s a quick rundown at some of the politicians who are shaping the encryption debate—and the laws that will come of them.

Sen. Richard Burr (R - NC)

Along with Dianne Feinstein (D - CA), Richard Burr is the co-sponsor of the first encryption bill to make its way public, and the current chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. He's written separately about concerns over the ability of criminals to "go dark," and was quick to assert that the terrorists responsible for last fall's Paris attacks used end-to-end encryption (they did not). His bill, which would essentially criminalize most common forms of encryption,  has been widely dismissed by security experts as "ludicrous" and flawed "in every way possible." Fun fact: He's reportedly a very distant cousin of Aaron Burr.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D - CA)

Burr's co-sponsor, Dianne Feinstein, was chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee from 2009-2015, when Democrats ceded control of the Senate. She has long been a proponent of the NSA's mass surveillance capabilities, despite taking issue with herself having been spied on on by the CIA. Again, the bill she has co-sponsored is very, very bad.

Sen. Mark Warner (D - VA)

Taking a more measured approach is Mark Warner, whose professional background as a tech-focused venture capitalist garnered him both a small fortune and a firm grasp of the issues at hand. Together with Rep. Michael  McCaul (R - TX), Warner has introduced legislation that would establish a commission of security experts, businesses, digital rights advocates, and other encryption stakeholders, which would in turn make recommendations to help guide any future laws. The idea has won broad support, though notably not from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which argues that there's no possible compromise that could be reached. The bill's future in Congress is also unsure, due to territorial disputes that we'll address in a moment.

Rep. Mike McCaul (R - Tex)

While Mike McCaul has been the Chairmen of the House Committee on Homeland Security for the last few years, his interest in the intersection in tech and security extends back to his previous career as a counterterrorism specialist in the Texas US Attorney's office. He's taken the lead on cybersecurity in Congress before, authoring the National Cybersecurity and Critical Infrastructure Protection Act of 2013, which enabled stronger collaboration between public and private entities to fight cyberattacks, and won both bipartisan support and that of the ACLU.

Bob Goodlatte (R - Virginia)

As the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Bob Goodlatte has already overseen consequential hearings about the role of encryption, featuring representatives from Apple, the FBI, and the security community. In late March, he and several colleagues took an even more prominent role in the debate. The leaders of the House Judiciary Committee and House Energy and Commerce Committee united to create a bipartisan "working group," comprising a panel of four Republicans and four Democrats. Their mission is similar to the proposed Warner-McCaul, except made up entirely of politicians, rather than a wider field of experts. 

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R - WI)

One key member of that working group will be Jim Sensenbrenner, whom many may remember as the man who introduced the mass-surveillance-enabling Patriot Act in the House of Representatives, a little over a month after the attacks of 9/11. But! He also authored last year's USA Freedom Act, which curtailed some of those same, unfettered bulk data-collection rights. If you're wondering which Jim will show up in an encryption law, note that he recently excoriated Apple for not proposing a legislative solution of its own. "We’ll be very happy to do [make a law without input]," he said at a March hearing, "but I can guarantee you won’t like the result."

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D - CA)

Another member of the working group, Zoe Lofgren, has been trying protect encryption since before it was cool. In 2014, she attempted to push through an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would have prevented any public institution from requiring software, hardware, or standards organizations to "build in a backdoor to circumvent the encryption or privacy protection of its products." When that failed, she later co-sponsored as separate bill---the Secure Data Act of 2014---to the same effect, which also did not pass. Lofgren has been a staunch encryption advocate, though, and should continue to be a powerful voice on the subject at a time when there's more political will that matches her own.

Ted Lieu (D - CA)

One of a handful of bona fide computer scientists in Congress, Ted Lieu holds the distinction of being the only person to propose sensible encryption legislation this calendar year. The ENCRYPT Act of 2016 recognizes that state-level encryption laws are entirely unenforceable and ridiculous, and aims to preempt them before any can get passed. Lieu has been a supporter of the Warner-McCaul plan, though hopefully he'll have a voice from whatever corner a broader encryption bill might come from.

Ron Wyden (D - Oregon)

The Burr-Feinstein bill won't pass. It's too deeply, recognizably flawed. But if it were even to get close, longtime encryption advocate Ron Wyden has already promised to filibuster it to death. In fact, he also teamed up with Lofgren on the Secure Data Act, a good encryption bill that Congress can turn to after it's done away with the bad one.