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Senior House Judiciary Committee Democrats Express Concern Over Government Attempts to Undermine Encryption

Feb 18, 2016

Washington, D.C.—Earlier this week, through a court order, the United States government demanded that Apple Inc. help the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) develop software in an effort to break the encryption on an iPhone that was recovered after the recent shootings in San Bernardino, California.  The government cited the “All Writs Act,” enacted in 1789, to demand that the technology company create a new version of the iPhone operating system to circumvent several security features on the device.  Apple has five days to respond to the court’s order.  The House Judiciary Committee will hold an oversight hearing on the encryption debate on March 1.

Senior Democratic Members of the House Judiciary Committee, Reps. Conyers, Nadler, Lofgren and Jackson Lee, released the following statement in response:

“The terrorist attack in San Bernardino was a tragic event.  We agree that heightened vigilance is necessary to combat the threat of home grown extremism in all of its forms.  In this effort, we commit our full support to law enforcement agencies at the local, state, and federal levels and hope to provide them with the resources and tools they require to perform their jobs. 

“But there is little reason for the government to make this demand on Apple—except to enact a policy proposal that has gained no traction in Congress and was rejected by the White House.

“Properly understood, strong encryption is our best defense against online criminals—including terrorist organizations.  It is the backbone of the Internet economy and vital for the protection of both free expression and privacy.  The government’s demand on Apple would coerce a private U.S. company to hack its own device, threatening the trust of millions of customers and placing our technology industry at a significant disadvantage abroad.

“In a September 2015 article, the Washington Post  cited an email from a top intelligence community official which stated: ‘the legislative environment is very hostile today . . . it could turn in the event of a terrorist attack or criminal event where strong encryption can be shown to have hindered law enforcement.’  We are concerned that the heartbreaking event in San Bernardino is being exploited to undertake an end-run around the legislative process in just this fashion.”



114th Congress