Legislation seeks independent commission on security and technology

Panel would have a year to prepare a report on cryptography, privacy and public safety

Bipartisan legislation introduced in Congress on Monday calls for creating an independent, 16-member national commission on security and technology challenges.

Including its two House and Senate sponsors, the legislation has eight co-sponsors in the Senate and 16 in the House. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Tex.) are the principle sponsors.

The commission would have two members drawn from each of the following fields: cryptography, global commerce and economics, federal law enforcement, state and local law enforcement, consumer-facing technology, enterprise technology, the intelligence community and the privacy and civil liberties community.

The House and Senate leadership from both parties would equally appoint the commissioners. President Obama would appoint one non-voting member.

Three quarters of the commission must support its final recommendations. An interim report would be due in six months, with a final report due in 12 months. The full Senate bill is posted online and is similar to the House bill.

Several of the Senate co-sponsors spoke in favor of establishing the commission Tuesday on the Senate floor, around the same time that FBI Director James Comey was addressing the House Judiciary Committee on the matter of smartphone encryption. Comey's testimony included the FBI’s demand in court that Apple assist in bypassing a passcode on an iPhone 5C that was used by one of the terrorists in the deadly San Bernardino, Calif., shootings.

Warner and others talked about the need to protect privacy and security at the same time.

“We need to protect Americans’ privacy and their lives and liberty from criminals and terrorists — and promote American innovation,” Warner said.

Warner and McCaul first called for the commission late last year, and elaborated in public comments in January.

Both have said that recommendations of the commission could include voluntary technology changes adopted by industry, instead of congressional action.

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