Texas Congressman to Feds: Don’t Mess with Civil Liberties

Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas

Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas Andrew Harnik/AP

“We can protect civil liberties, defend infrastructure and chase bad guys all at the same time,” the legislator said. “We can chase bad guys without eroding our civil liberties.”

Republican lawmaker Will Hurd would prefer the U.S. government not interfere with Americans' personal freedoms. 

Hurd, who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform committee’s IT subcommittee and formerly served as an analyst at the CIA, weighed in Tuesday on the encryption debate rekindled by Apple’s refusal to cooperate with the FBI. While Hurd believes a middle-ground exists between the bureau’s requests and Apple’s refusals, he’s decidedly pro-privacy.

“Our civil liberties are not burdens; they are what make our country great,” said the Texas congressman, speaking at the Cloudera Federal Forum, which was produced by Government Executive Media Group. “We should do all we can do protect them.”

Apple has thus far refused to create a special operating system that would allow federal investigators to access the iPhone of Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the San Bernardino shooters. The FBI is citing a 227-year-old law, the All Writs Act of 1789, in an attempt to force Apple’s cooperation. Apple CEO Tim Cook has argued compliance with the FBI’s order would endanger the privacy of its customers – a position backed by other tech companies and privacy experts alike.

The complicated legal case could ultimately end up before the Supreme Court.

Hurd said encryption is likely to be the technology issue to watch in 2016, with any legal decisions sure to have major ramifications on the tech industry and increasingly privacy-conscious consumers.

In crafting legislation, Congress' role is also crucial to the future of encryption in the United States, and based on his credentials – Hurd worked at a tech company after his CIA service – and outspokenness, Hurd may be a key figure in the encryption debate. Since taking office in 2015, Hurd has worked on several privacy-supporting issues: chief among them, the House-passed cybersecurity legislation Hurd introduced asking Department of Homeland Security to provide local and state cybersecurity staffs with tools, assistance and training in privacy and civil liberties.

“We can protect civil liberties, defend infrastructure and chase bad guys all at the same time,” Hurd said. “We can chase bad guys without eroding our civil liberties.”

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