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May 21, 2020

King Joins Bipartisan Call to Protect Congressional Phone Networks from Foreign Surveillance

Bipartisan, bicameral coalition warns that calls between House and Senate are unencrypted and vulnerable to surveillance

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and co-chair of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission, joined a bipartisan, bicameral group effort to encrypt phone calls between the House of Representatives and the Senate to protect communications against foreign surveillance. Specifically, the members asked the U.S. Senate Sergeant of Arms, and the Chief Administrative Officer for the U.S. House of Representatives for a plan to encrypt calls between the House and Senate by June 12.

“Congress must secure itself from the serious threat posed by foreign spies,” the members wrote. “Please take immediate action to encrypt, in bulk, all internal calls and other electronic communications between the Senate, House and other components of the legislative branch.”

Encrypting unclassified communications is standard practice in many federal agencies. The Pentagon is in the process of encrypting its backbone network, in response to serious surveillance threats. In February 2019, the Defense Information Systems Agency recommended, “Federal, State and Local agencies should work towards protecting their unclassified networks by applying encryption technologies similar to the Department of Defense.” Currently, calls within the Senate are protected by encryption, as are most calls within the House. But calls from one chamber to the other are vulnerable to being tapped by hackers and foreign spies. 

In addition to Senator King, the following Senators signed the letter: Ron Wyden, (D-Ore.), and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Jerry Moran (R-Kansas), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.). The Senators were joined by Representatives Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), Michael Waltz (R-Fla.), C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), Michael T. McCaul (R-Texas), Ted W. Lieu (D-Calif.), and Will Hurd (R-Texas).

As co-chair of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission (CSC), Senator King has been outspoken about international security threats to the U.S. government and critical information technology infrastructure. Last week, he joined CSC commissioners to testify before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs and present the CSC’s recommendations to establish a comprehensive, forward-looking security posture for the United States.

The signed letter is available here.

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