Lawmakers want more complete phone encryption on Capitol Hill

fiber optics and switches (PeterPhoto123/ 

Privacy hawk Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) is leading the charge to make sure phone traffic between House and Senate offices is encrypted.

Internal calls on Senate telephone networks and House offices equipped with newer model handsets are currently encrypted, but calls made between the two chambers are still at risk according to Wyden and a group of lawmakers.

"Encryption of intra-chamber phone calls is important, but it does not fully address the surveillance threat," Wyden and 19 other lawmakers wrote in a  May 19 letter to the Senate sergeant at arms and the House chief administrative officer. "Calls between the Senate and the House are still vulnerable to spying by anyone who gains access to the data connection between the two chambers."

The letter refers to hard line networks, not mobile phones used by lawmakers and staff.

The lawmakers are seeking "immediate action to encrypt, in bulk, all internal calls and other electronic communications between the Senate, House and other components of the legislative branch." These other components include the Government Accountability Office and the Library of Congress.

Lawmakers were advised in 2018 to encrypt even unclassified communications by a top counter-intelligence official.

Wyden was joined in the letter by many lawmakers who are active on technology and cybersecurity issues, including Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Sens. Michael Rounds (R-S.D.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas). Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) and Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), the legislative co-chairs of the Solarium Commission, also signed.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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