James Comey Again Demands Tech Companies Do As He Says And Grant The FBI Complete Access To Whatever It Wants

from the please-please-please-let-me-get-what-I-want dept

FBI director James Comey — (again) citing no legal authority or precedent — is demanding Google and Apple hand over the keys to their default phone encryption.

The director of the FBI on Monday doubled down on demands that Silicon Valley giants cooperate in the course of criminal investigations, saying that tech companies such as Apple and Google have to unlock cellphones, if authorities request it.

And what has all this “demanding” and “doubling down” netted Comey? Nothing really. He still needs a compliant legislative body to oblige his fantasies of subservient tech companies opening wide for fat-fingered g-men.

Comey’s latest attempt to sell the government’s plan to exchange fear for all-access mobile phone passes came at a counterterrorism conference hosted by Fordham University. And, once again, Comey followed up his baseless demands with a whole lot of nothing.

Comey didn’t specify what he wants Apple and Google to do but said that to find a solution requires an “honest debate.”

“I don’t want to tell people what to do,” he said. “But I want to try to foster a national conversation about this.”

“There has to be some solution that will allow us with lawful authority to be able to have the company unlock the device,” he added.

There’s nothing honest about Comey’s approach and walking around claiming that phone encryption will lead to new highs in terrorist attacks and pedophilia is only part of the dishonesty. Comey claims he doesn’t want to “tell people what to do,” apparently completely unaware that throwing around the weight of his agency and position and demanding phone makers play by his rules is the very definition of “telling people what to do.”

Unfortunately for Comey, throwing around this weight just isn’t enough anymore. No one in the tech world is going to be cowed into obeisance. Not anymore. Now, everyone wants to stick it to The Man, even many of those that worked in close proximity with government agencies over the past several years. Why? Because the nation’s intelligence and investigative agencies are always hungry. They always want more.

The “solution” Comey’s looking for runs through Congress. Historically, legislators have almost always come down on the side of law enforcement. The twin specters of terrorism and child molestation have resulted in plenty of government expansion and law enforcement leeway over the years. But maybe even the legislators are beginning to realize that this is something that can never be satiated. You can give and give and give and the same people will return over and over again, asking for just a little more. The government is — and has been for years — a mixture of junkies and their enablers.

Maybe we’re at the point that a certain number of enablers have become sick of the constant need. Maybe they’ll cut Comey and his ilk off and put up with the keening, inarticulate sounds of their withdrawal. Or maybe they’ll meet them out back and slip them a fix when they think no one’s looking. As I’ve said before, the voices out front are claiming the FBI will find no assistance here. It’s the large number of those who’ve offered no opinion we need to keep an eye on. Law enforcement’s emotional blackmail has worked for years. It may have recently lost its edge, but it’s still too powerful to count out completely.

“In one way or another, our entire lives — our social lives, our work lives — reside online and on these devices,” Comey said. “And that’s a great thing. But that’s also where the bad guys are.”

Yeah. As in “real life” itself. I guess we should expect him to ask for “golden key” access to every front door in America. As long as he’s transparent about it, what’s there to be concerned about? Comey just wants to keep America safe. Who are we to deny complete access to our “entire lives?”

Filed Under: , , , , ,
Companies: apple, google

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “James Comey Again Demands Tech Companies Do As He Says And Grant The FBI Complete Access To Whatever It Wants”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
67 Comments
Ninja (profile) says:

But that’s also where the bad guys are.

The bad guys are everywhere most people are. The friendly neighbor can be a bank robber (true story from a close friend, we were shocked). Shall we give our door keys to the FBI just in case? I challenge him and any other of those morons to propose this. And eat each gram of crap from the ensuing shitstorm. Because if it works online it must work offline, no?

Anonymous Coward says:

yep

“In one way or another, our entire lives — our social lives, our work lives — reside online and on these devices,” Comey said. “And that’s a great thing. But that’s also where the bad guys are.”

he is right. and they work at the FBI.

my resentment for *law enforcement* is reaching soviet union enforcer levels.

Geno0wl (profile) says:

Re: Re:

But that is the point of the new encryption standards. That even WHEN they get the warrants that they pretend are such a huge hassle(which they are not)…even then Apple and Google can’t/won’t help them.
They are pushing new encryption standards so that literally ONLY the owner of the phone can decrypt said phone.
And as people who have been used to being crushed under mountain of data…that scares them…and to that I say…”Good”

Anonymous Coward says:

All I can think of is White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane when I look at the current state our country is in , The lengths that these guys will go are almost surreal, One has to wonder at what moment our country was occupied by this unknown invading force,That gives no worth to what many have fought and died for and what our founding fathers were building , In 15 years we have lost/ given away all control.

Rich Kulawiec (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Ah, but this is an old, OLD playbook:

“Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind. And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear and blinded by patriotism, will offer up all of their rights unto the leader and gladly so. How do I know? For this is what I have done. And I am Caesar.”

— Julius Caesar

Michael (profile) says:

“I don’t want to tell people what to do,” he said. “But I want to try to foster a national conversation about this.”

We had a national conversation about it. It went like this:

American People: Hey FBI, NSA, HomeSec…why are you gathering up every telephone conversation made in the US?
American Government: I cannot say if we are, but if it were the case, the reasons would be classified.
AP: Ok, well, we have some documents that say you are doing it.
AG: Well, again, I cannot confirm or deny anything because that would make you less safe.
AP: Ok, well then we are going to demand our tech providers make our information more secure.
AG: For your own safety, we are going to need the keys.
AP: Umm…go f*** yourselves.

Anonymous Coward says:

“…I want to try to foster a national conversation about this….. There has to be some solution that will allow us with lawful authority to be able to have the company unlock the device…”

This doesn’t sound like a discussion to me. This sounds like you have a solution and are going to piss and moan until the nation accepts it. This sounds more like a 2 year old throwing a tantrum than a “national conversation”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

There is a solution that gives the FBI “lawful authority to be able to have the company unlock the device”. It’s called a warrant.

If we’re going to have a national conversation, it needs to be about why the FBI doesn’t want to use warrants. We could talk about why the FBI wants to read people’s mail without probable cause. We could talk about why the FBI doesn’t want warrant-less spying included in courtroom evidence, and would prefer to lie about their sources. We could even talk about how warrants are a matter of public record, and provide needed transparency into what the FBI is doing.

But Comey doesn’t want to have that conversation, and that’s why he’s pissing and moaning. An actual discussion is the last thing he wants.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

There is a solution that gives the FBI “lawful authority to be able to have the company unlock the device”. It’s called a warrant.

With encrypted storage on the phone, the warrant will only work if their is a backdoor in the encryption system, or the company has by some means acquired or manages the users key. If the encryption is done properly, with the key under user control only, the phone company will not be able access the phones contents.
Done properly, it means that the phone cannot be decrypted without the owners knowledge, including any cloning by TSA, or police when they stop and search someone.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“With encrypted storage on the phone, the warrant will only work if their is a backdoor in the encryption system, or the company has by some means acquired or manages the users key.”

Not true.

The warrant is issued to the owner of the device (the user who has the key). If they don’t comply, they go to jail for contempt until they do.

I’m not seeing the problem.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Fair enough, my apologies.

I was taking the conversation in the larger context of what Comey has been saying. The argument Comey has been making is that if the companies can’t do this, that means that law enforcement can’t possibly get access to the phone whether or not they have a warrant.

That’s the straight-up lie.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

As far as I can see, law enforcement want the ability to look at all the data on a phone, or an image of its contents, any time they can get their hands on one, like any arrest for any reason. This can only be done if they do not need a warrant and also need the company to be able to decrypt the data, because many times they would not be able to get a warrant.

Anonymous Coward says:

Of course, it could all be a deception. They could already have the keys. Phase 1 would be for them to obtain the “golden keys” and once they have them, they would begin phase 2 Phase 2 would focus on deceiving people; remember the 4D’s these 3 letter intelligence agencies like to use. The deception is one of security. They shout and throw a tantrum and insist they need access, while letting the target company sit back and put out the message that their security conscious target market wants to hear. RSA did it, they weakened their encryption after being paid $10,000,000 by the NSA, in order to aid the NSA in their surveillance efforts. So unless you can give one of these companies a larger contract than the NSA, it’s best to error on the side of caution.

Sure it’s a conspiracy theory, but is it any more nuts than the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, or the CIA funding an illegal war in central America with money earned from the trafficking of drugs from south America to the US. During this same time, the US Government was bombarding the media with their anti-drug “just say no” campaign. (the results put Manuel Noreiga in prison, and gave his partner Col Olivier North, who met with him, a radio show), or as previously mentioned, the RSA giving them easier access.

Knowing those things happened in the past, and knowing what the FBI likes to do when it acts as an intelligence agency (Cointelpro), how likely is it that they don’t already have the “golden keys” and so now they just want to make sure everyone uses the services they have access too?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Conspiracy theory on encryption

… Sure it’s a conspiracy theory, …

Suppose you are right. If so, then the people who migrate from using a pre-default-encryption smartphone to using one of these fake-security smartphones are no worse off against the government, and are better off against common thieves who lack the government’s secret intercept capabilities. The government can trivially search the pre-encryption phone because anybody can break into it. The government can trivially search the fake-security smartphone using the secret technique you propose. Common thieves could search the pre-encryption phone, but cannot search the fake-security smartphone. If the ability to compromise the fake-security phones ever becomes available to common thieves, it will likely become generally known soon after and everyone will recognize the phones have only fake-security. The deception you describe can only harm people who switch from a secure product (and there aren’t any good mainstream secure smartphones as far as I know) to the fake-security smartphones posited here.

It’s possible that there are people who currently avoid putting anything private on a smartphone who might start to do so if they were taken in by the conspiracy you posit, but my guess is that most of the people who avoid it now are suspicious enough that they won’t start just because a closed system claims to be more secure than it once was.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I agree it could be a possibility that they already have access. Which is why I sent an encrypted picture to a Canadian email address back at the beginning of all the leaks.
The encrypted email contained a cat’s butt with the words “kiss it”. I bet the recipient was wondering why they got an email they couldn’t decrypt but I hope the people in Government could see it.

DigDug says:

James Comey - You First.

Starting today, wear multiple cameras, live streaming 24x7x365, stored forever on the internet for every American to access on a whim.

No more private moments at home, no secret meetings, nothing.

If you see it, we see it. If you hear it, we hear it.

That is what you are asking for.

That is invasion of privacy.

That is why WE choose to encrypt devices that hold information about our PRIVATE lives.

You have proven that you are incapable of following the law.

You are a TRAITOR to our country.
You have committed acts of TREASON by violating the constitution.
You should have been arrested a long time ago to stand trial for treason.
We’ll work on getting the PotUS, the heads of the CIA/NSA/and other alphabet organizations to join you in your cell as soon as possible.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Battering rams are obvious

> “golden key” access to every front door in America.

That’s a pretty poor analogy since battering rams exist.

Ever try using a battering ram to sneak&peek a place you know the occupants will later return to? Breaking down the door is noisy and usually causes enough incidental damage that it’s pretty obvious someone’s been trespassing. By contrast, a golden key or golden lockpick would let the trespassers slip in, search the place, and slip out, leaving no sign they had ever been.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Battering rams are obvious

…a golden key or golden lockpick would let the trespassers slip in, search the place, and slip out, leaving no sign they had ever been…

A skilled lockpicker (I mean locksmith) doesn’t need a key; it just makes their job easier. And don’t kid yourself: the government has a few of them on the payroll.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

unless of course the government does the whole secret evidence the defense and judge are not allowed to see but it completely incriminates you because the prosecution says it does. or why even bother with secret evidence and just go for a secret trial or just use the provisions currently in place to suspend your right to trial and put you in jail.

Because terrorism means you have no rights if those in charge decide they do not want you to have any rights

Anonymous Coward says:

Great then we should also have a way to get into the FBI’s systems when we need to and image all of their data. Throw the NSA in there as well. We will need a citizen data center beside the NSA bluffdale DC where we get a copy of all the information the bluffdale facility receives.

Sounds pretty crazy doesn’t it. That’s because it is crazy.

Anonymous Coward says:

This was brilliantly written Tim, thanks.

As in “real life” itself. I guess we should expect him to ask for “golden key” access to every front door in America.

He isn’t asking for that because he doesn’t need it. There aren’t many doors in America that can stand up to an MRAP, hell the majority can’t stand up to a Swat boot.

Anonymous Coward says:

I for one was considering a promising career in terrorism and/or pedophilia, but not having strong encryption on mobile devices was really making me reconsider those fields and look into something that apparently requires less effort and intelligence, like law enforcement and/or fear-mongering. Now that Comey has notified me that Google and Apple are offering stronger encryption on mobile devices, I may have to reconsider my reconsideration…

(This is complete sarcasm for you government spooks listening out there – I would never honestly consider a career in law enforcement…)

Anonymous Coward says:

Is this the same James Comey who got the nickname “james coming” from his habit of pulling down the blinds of his office for his “special alone time” (with rosie palm and her 5 daughters)?

Has this guy FINALLY managed to exhaust the vast porn content of the internet and now has to start furiously fapping to peoples random iphone pics?

Anonymous Coward says:

Time to gut the "3rd Party Doctrine"

The whole “3rd party doctrine” thing is and end-run around the constitution & needs to be declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

I should be able to trust my phone, my pacemaker, my coclear implants, my retinal implants, etc., not to violate my 1st, 3rd, 4th & 5th Amendment rights.

Cory Doctorow has talked about this already, but it’s now time to fix this.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Time to gut the "3rd Party Doctrine"

This is the absurdity of government wordsmithing.

I feel it’s reasonable to have the expectation that, yes, my phone and internet service providers could potentially snoop in the stuff that I trust them with, but not have them disclose it to anyone without a very specific warrant directed at me and my information based on real criminal acts I’m legitimately suspected of committing.

The government thinks no one has a reasonable expectation of privacy (except for the government) because they snoop through everyone’s stuff without a warrant. Their arguments are self-supporting.

“You can’t expect privacy because I like to snoop through your stuff, therefore your expectations of privacy are unreasonable.”

To put it another way, I hand a letter to the postal service and expect them to deliver it to the intended recipient without opening it or reading it. Why is that expectation of privacy any less reasonable than typing a letter up in a webmail app and hitting send?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Time to gut the "3rd Party Doctrine"

I agree.

There is an underlying aspect to the third party doctrine that makes sense. If I give my data to someone else, then (in the absence of a legal agreement otherwise) that someone else can do anything they like with it including give it to the cops with or without a warrant.

Where I think the whole notion has been perverted is with the concept of “reasonable expectation of privacy”. That is a flawed standard from the start, and is a much larger problem than the specific incarnation in the third party doctrine.

For example, in what sane world is there no reasonable expectation of privacy with third parties even when there is an explicit agreement that the third party will maintain your privacy?

AM says:

A little less sarcasm and hyperbole please

I agree with the sentiment in this article, but the quality of writing is too snarky for Techdirt:

“fat-fingered G-men”

“The government is — and has been for years — a mixture of junkies and their enablers.”

“Maybe they’ll cut Comey and his ilk off and put up with the keening, inarticulate sounds of their withdrawal.”

Doesn’t matter that there is a strong element of truth in here. The writing is just plain nasty, and therefore hard to take seriously.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: A little less sarcasm and hyperbole please

But it’s true isn’t it? They are acting like junkies who, upon realizing that their drug of choice(mass, indiscriminate surveillance) may not be available(at least in this sense), are scrambling around trying to force the ‘dealers’ to give in and continue to let them get their ‘fix’ without any effort(read: getting warrants) on their part.

Anonymous Coward says:

I look at James Comey’s statements and think to myself, wow, terrorism really has won the war against American values. It’s managed to destroy the very foundation of our Constitutional Republic. That foundation is the Constitutional law itself.

Anyone who attacks the very foundation and social fabric of our country, will be considered an enemy of the State in my book.

Jim Anderson (profile) says:

Apple Encryption

My understanding of Apple’s encryption was that it was built with no back door, no golden key and no key that Apple or anyone can use to spy on the message in question. So Comey can demand what does not exist and there is no way Apple can give what he wants because it does not exist. Comey is demanding Apple remove the current encryption and replace with a spy able version. Sad times in the former home of the former free and the land of the Atlanta Braves. I don’t know about Google but I think they will move in Apples direction in an effort to try and preserve their business.
.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...