Sheriff Cannon steps into national encrypted phone debate

Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon talked encryption on Capitol Hill last week.

Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon is wading into one of Congress’s most contentious policy debates of the moment.

Last week, Cannon was in Washington advocating for legislation that would make it easier for the government to access locked or encrypted cell phone data that could help solve crimes.

Cannon was invited to Capitol Hill as the representative on encryption issues with the Major County Sheriffs’ Association.

The current encryption debate stems from the FBI’s recent struggle to get Apple to unlock the iPhone used by one of the perpetrators in the December mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif.

Cannon told The Post and Courier the high-profile California case was bringing attention to an issue law enforcement officers have been aware of for years: being able to access cell phone data in criminal investigations would help find missing juveniles, for instance, or track down a sexual predator.

As for civil liberties advocates who worry new laws would weaken privacy protections, Cannon said those concerns were largely misplaced.

While he was in town, he made his case to someone he knew would have his ear: U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., a former sheriff whose claim to fame is having caught the Green River serial killer.

Cannon also had an opportunity to lobby U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., on the plane ride up to D.C.

The same group that plans to re-fly the Confederate flag at the Statehouse in July last week celebrated the 151st anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination at Ford’s Theatre.

The South Carolina Secessionist Party called April 14 “a true Southern holiday” as it marked the date “the greatest American dictator was shot.”

Lincoln “invaded what he considered his own country while stripping those loyal to him of their constitutional rights, robbing them through taxes and forcing them to fight in a war,” the group said, leaving him with the “blood of more than 600,000 people on his hands.”

“It’s only a shame it didn’t happen sooner,” their posting said. “There will be no mourning for you in the South Abe. Sic Semper Tyrannis.”

Secessionist Party members and supporters plan to return the Confederate battle flag to Statehouse grounds exactly one year after it was removed in the wake of the shootings at Emanuel AME Church.

The rally is set for July 10 near the Confederate Soldier Monument where the rebel banner previously flew.

A Senate resolution was introduced this week to commission and hang a portrait of Senate President Pro Tem Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, in the Senate chamber.

The resolution was sponsored by former Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler, R-Gaffney, and Senate Minority Leader Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington. It is stipulated that the portrait will be paid for with private funds.

The 35-year veteran of the Senate, who became the chamber’s leader in 2014, also celebrated his 85th birthday Thursday.

South Carolina Democrats will elect three Democratic National Committee members at the annual convention April 30 in Columbia. Long-time DNC member state Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter of Orangeburg will be running for re-election, while current DNC member Boyd Brown has announced he will not seek re-election.

Charleston County Democratic Party Chairman Brady Quirk-Garvan announced he will run for one of the spots. “We must work to maintain our first in the South primary position and I am prepared to advocate on behalf of South Carolina at the DNC,” he said.

The speaker for the May 2 Galivants Ferry stump of federal, state and local office-seeking Democrats is Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y.

Crowley is vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, the fifth-highest ranking position in the House Democratic leadership.

The stump, in western Horry County, is one of the oldest continual political gatherings in the South.

Emma Dumain, Gavin Jackson and Schuyler Kropf contributed to this report.