Sanity prevailed in Washington yesterday as the House Commerce Committee rejected amendments to an encryption bill that would have imposed Draconian restrictions on domestic as well as export use of encryption tools, enabling the US law enforcement officials to read user’s encrypted messages without their knowledge. The committee rejected by a vote of 35-16 the amendment from Ohio Republican Mike Oxley and approved the bill by Virginian Republican Bob Goodlatte that would actually relax the present export controls and prohibit access to law enforcement types. However the committee only passed the bill after accepting an amendment from Washington Republican Rick White and Massachusetts Democrat Edward Markey to establish a technology center to help law enforcement officials deal with encrypted data they come across in their investigations, but it is not yet clear what that will actually amount to. Next stop for the Goodlatte bill is the House Rules Committee, which has to decide whether or not to send it before the full House for a vote and in what form. But that is not likely to be straightforward either. Rules Committee chairman Gerald Soloman said earlier this week he would not send the bill to the House floor unless it contained domestic encryption controls, and while the Commerce Committee rejected such controls, the House Select Intelligence Committee attached similar controls to its version of Goodlatte’s bill, which is called the Security and Freedom through Encryption Act (SAFE). Goodlatte promised to work on a version of the bill that House leaders would agree to bring to the floor of the House. Five House committees have now passed their version of the bill and a similar bill is currently going through the Senate.
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