Black Friday

FBI Director unconvincing in arguments against encryption

Stan Ward

Stan Ward

November 3, 2014

Please note that opinions expressed in this article are Stan’s alone, and are in no any way endorsed (or shared) by the rest of BestVPN team.

Despite a huge preponderance of evidence suggesting that encryption makes us safer, not less safe, FBI Director James Comey – an Obama appointee – persisted in claiming that encryption is leading law enforcement to a “very dark place” where it “misses out” on crucial evidence to nail criminals. He attempted to dampen the enthusiasm surrounding the announcement that the latest versions of iOS and Android will finally encrypt all the information on your smartphone by default. Comey would like to force Apple and Google to play ball with the authorities,

“Encryption isn’t just a technical feature”, he opined, “it’s the equivalent of a closet that can’t be opened- a safe that cannot be cracked. And my question is at what cost? Both companies are run by good people, responding to what they perceive as market demand. But the place they are leading us is one we shouldn’t go to without careful thought and debate.”

Comey then regales listeners with anecdotes about crimes that were prevented or solved using cell phone evidence to nail the perpetrators. However, according to reports in The Intercept cell-phone evidence had nothing to do with the capture of the culprits, nor would have encryption come into play. But Comey continued to rail at the tech industry, at one point stating that, “Perhaps it’s time to suggest that the post-Snowden pendulum has swung too far in one direction-in a direction of fear and mistrust.” It is more probable that the government and law enforcement agencies have engendered this fear and mistrust with their overzealous actions- mass surveillance abuses being one of them.

At this juncture we might do well to highlight some salient points in the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the person or things to be seized.

It seems that Comey in particular and law enforcement agencies in general would like to conveniently ignore or selectively apply the criteria in this Amendment. What makes America the beacon of freedom that people in the world flock is that it is a nation of laws. And speaking of laws and “pendulums”, exactly to what is the FBI Director referring when he says it has swung in one direction? The fact is that there has been no overt privacy legislation enacted since Snowden’s disclosures. And in the next Congress and with this president legislative prospects look bleak.

Election Day 2014 is upon us. But regardless of whether the Republicans win control of the Senate (they will assuredly continue to hold a House majority), Obama will be a lame-duck. Maybe this is just as well as far as privacy advocates are concerned because he has failed to grasp the seriousness of his administration’s lapses in the privacy arena. He has turned a deaf ear to the clamor for protection against abusive, intrusive spying on individuals. As a result, the Democrats will likely suffer losses in the polls as voters vent their ire at candidates because Obama is not on the ballot. But his policies and governance are. Maybe his future agency-head appointees will face greater scrutiny by the new Congress.


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