Ted Lieu

Federal officials want access to encrypted emails and texts on private devices

Setting up a clash between counter-terrorism priorities and constitutional protection against unwarranted intrusion, three top federal law enforcement officials urged Congress and Silicon Valley to provide government agencies special access to encrypted cellphones and other Internet devices.

The pitch Wednesday came amid renewed concern about American vulnerabilities as a cascading series of coincidental computer malfunctions briefly grounded United Airlines aircraft and brought the New York Stock Exchange and other high-profile digital networks to a halt.

Testifying before two Senate committees, FBI Director James B. Comey warned that without legal access to encrypted emails,...