Congress is starting to address the legal fight between Apple and the FBI. A bill introduced today would create a "National Commission on Security and Technology Challenges," assembling experts from the technology and law enforcement communities to produce a report on encryption policy.
It's a long way from anything legally binding for either Apple or the FBI, but the commission could provide a crucial starting point for future legislative action on the issues currently faced by the courts. "Technology companies and law enforcement both have raised serious public policy questions," said Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA), who co-sponsored the bill. "It’s time to work together." The bill was introduced by Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA).
The commission is strikingly similar to a measure endorsed by Apple CEO Tim Cook in a letter to Apple employees on February 22nd. As Cook wrote at the time:
We feel the best way forward would be for the government to withdraw its demands under the All Writs Act and, as some in Congress have proposed, form a commission or other panel of experts on intelligence, technology and civil liberties to discuss the implications for law enforcement, national security, privacy and personal freedoms. Apple would gladly participate in such an effort.
Congress is also facing growing pressure from within the government to address the issue. On Monday, New York Magistrate Judge James Orenstein rejected an FBI request similar to the San Bernardino order, explicitly calling for congressional debate on the issue.
The debate over law enforcement access "must take place among legislators who are equipped to consider the technological and cultural realities of a world their predecessors could not begin to conceive," Orenstein wrote. "It would betray our constitutional heritage and our people's claim to democratic governance for a judge to pretend that our Founders already had that debate, and ended it, in 1789."