Law Enforcement's Cluelessness On Display In Congressional Hearing On Undermining Encryption

from the let's-try-this-again dept

Yesterday, the House Oversight Committee held a hearing over this whole stupid kerfuffle about mobile encryption. If you don’t recall, back in the fall, both Apple and Google said they would start encrypting data on mobile devices by default, leading to an immediate freakout by law enforcement types, launching a near exact replica of the cryptowars of the 1990s.

While many who lived through the first round had hoped this would die a quick death, every week or so, we see someone else in law enforcement demonizing encryption, without seeming to recognize how ridiculous they sound. There was quite a bit of that in the hearing yesterday, which you can sit and watch in its entirety if you’d like:

Thankfully, there were folks like cryptographer Matt Blaze and cybersecurity policy expert Kevin Bankston on hand to make it clear how ridiculous all of this is — but it didn’t stop law enforcement from making their usual claims. The most ridiculous, without a doubt, was Daniel Conley, the District Attorney from Suffolk County, Massachusetts, whose opening remarks were so ridiculous that it’s tough to read them without loudly guffawing. It’s full of the usual “but bad guys — terrorists, kidnappers, child porn people — use this” arguments, along with the usual “law enforcement needs access” stuff. And he blames Apple and Google for using a “hypothetical” situation as reason to encrypt:

Apple and Google are using an unreasonable, hypothetical narrative of government intrusion as the rationale for the new encryption software, ignoring altogether the facts as I?ve just explained them. And taking it to a dangerous extreme in these new operating systems, they?ve made legitimate evidence stored on handheld devices inaccessible to anyone, even with a warrant issued by an impartial judge. For over 200 years, American jurisprudence has refined the balancing test that weighs the individual?s rights against those of society, and with one fell swoop Apple and Google has upended it. They have created spaces not merely beyond the reach of law enforcement agencies, but beyond the reach of our courts and our laws, and therefore our society.

The idea that anything in mobile encryption “upends” anything is ridiculous. First, we’ve had encryption tools for both computers and mobile devices for quite some time. Apple and Google making them more explicit hardly upends anything. Second, note the implicit (and totally incorrect) assumption that historically law enforcement has always had access to all your communications. That’s not true. People have always been able to talk in person, or they’ve been able to communicate in code. Or destroy communications after making them. There have always been “spaces” that are “beyond the reach of law enforcement.”

But to someone so blind as to be unaware of all of this, Conley thinks this is somehow “new”:

I can think of no other example of a tool or technology that is specifically designed and allowed to exist completely beyond the legitimate reach of law enforcement, our courts, our Congress, and thus, the people. Not safe deposit boxes, not telephones, not automobiles, not homes. Even if the technology existed, would we allow architects to design buildings that would keep police and firefighters out under any and all circumstances? The inherent risk of such a thing is obvious so the answer is no. So too are the inherent risks of what Apple and Google have devised with these operating systems that will provide no means of access to anyone, anywhere, anytime, under any circumstance.

As Chris Soghoian pointed out, just because Conley can’t think of any such technology, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Take the shredder for example. Or fire.

During the hearing, Conley continued to show just how far out of his depth he was. Rep. Blake Farenthold (right after quizzing the FBI on why it removed its recommendation on mobile encryption from its website — using the screenshot and highlighting I made), asked the entire panel:

Is there anybody on the panel believes we can build a technically secure backdoor with a golden key — raise your hand?

No one did — neither DA Conley nor the FBI’s Amy Hess:

But, just a few minutes later, Conley underscored his near absolute cluelessness by effectively arguing “if we can put a man on the moon, we can make backdoor encryption that doesn’t put people at risk.” Farenthold catalogs a variety of reasons why backdoor encryption is ridiculously stupid — and even highlights how every other country is going to demand their own backdoors as well — and asks if anyone on the panel has any solutions. Conley then raises his hand and volunteers the following bit of insanity:

I’m no expert. I’m probably the least technologically savvy guy in this room, maybe. But, there are a lot of great minds in the United States. I’m trying to figure out a way to balance the interests here. It’s not an either/or situation. Dr. Blaze said he’s a computer scientist. I’m sure he’s brilliant. But, geeze, I hate to hear talk like ‘that cannot be done.’ I mean, think about if Jack Kennedy said ‘we can’t go to the moon. That cannot be done.’ [smirks] He said something else. ‘We’re gonna get there in the next decade.’ So I would say to the computer science community, let’s get the best minds in the United States on this. We can balance the interests here.

No, really. Watch it here:

As Julian Sanchez notes, this response is “all the technical experts are wrong because AMERICA FUCK YEAH.”

This is why it’s kind of ridiculous that we continue to let technologically clueless people lead these debates. There are things that are difficult (getting to the moon) and things that are impossible (arguing we only let “good people” go to the moon.) There are reasons for that. This isn’t about technologists not working hard enough on this problem. This is a fundamental reality in that creating backdoors weakens the infrastructure absolutely. That’s a fact. Not a condition of poor engineering practices.

And, really, this idea of “getting the best minds” in the computer science community to work on this, I say please don’t. That’s like asking the best minds in increasing food production to stop all their work and spend months trying to research how to make it rain apples from clouds in the sky. It’s not just counterproductive and impossible, but it takes away from the very real and important work they are doing on a daily basis, including protecting us from people who actually are trying to do us harm. That a law enforcement official is actively asking for computer scientists and cybersecurity experts to stop focusing on protecting people and, instead, to help undermine the safety of the public, is quite incredible. How does someone like Conley stay in his job while publicly advocating for putting the American people in more danger like that?

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Comments on “Law Enforcement's Cluelessness On Display In Congressional Hearing On Undermining Encryption”

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110 Comments
Ninja (profile) says:

How does someone like Conley stay in his job while publicly advocating for putting the American people in more danger like that?

Because that’s exactly the mindset of law enforcement as a whole and partially the Govt branches. And while there’s a lot of ill-intended individuals that are actively advocating this with ulterior motives there are the ones genuinely clueless, the ones that really believe in what they have been fed. I don’t know where Conley is in this mess.

I think the best analogy here would be to ask if he would like to have a “golden key” that gives full access to his house to some unknown Government agent with little oversight. Note I’m talking about Government AGENT and not the ENTITY itself. While the Government CAN be a trusted ENTITY there are fallible people running the things behind. Do we really want them to have full, unhindered access to our houses?

As for the ones that argue that digital is an entirely different realm stop. Forty years ago you had photo albums, vhs with stuff from your private life and loved ones, confidential documents, agendas etc. Those things are in our phones now and are still private and personal so how come it’s not ok to invade houses without warrants or record private space without a plethora of protections to the citizens (that are being more and more ignored) but it’s ok to do it if it’s digital?

The best way to counter people like Conley is to ask him if he would do his banking stuff in the open. Because that’s what a ‘golden key’ means. Other people will discover it and will use it to expose mine, yours, his online activities.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“I think the best analogy here would be to ask if he would like to have a “golden key” that gives full access to his house to some unknown Government agent with little oversight. Note I’m talking about Government AGENT and not the ENTITY itself. While the Government CAN be a trusted ENTITY there are fallible people running the things behind. Do we really want them to have full, unhindered access to our houses?”

you forgot and to agents (yes plural) every other country in the world, as well as every criminal in the world… and not just his house but his bank accounts etc.

It’s not like these “back doors” won’t be accessible to everyone who cracks the key.

DannyB (profile) says:

hypothetical narrative of government intrusion

Um, excuse me, but isn’t the 4th Amendment about protecting us from a hypothetical narrative of government intrusion?

Or am I missing something? (Other than possibly a few other amendments I should have mentioned?)

Dear Daniel Conley, You can download a copy of the US Constitution right here. But hurry! Supplies are limited. Please take care not to download too many copies or the US might no longer have a constitution.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: hypothetical narrative of government intrusion

The 4th is the definitive defense against this.

The problem is the very intentional twisting on the meaning of the amendment, mean that “reasonable” can be anything the Supreme Court or Law enforcement considers it to be, when instead the 4th states that the ONLY reasonable way to search and seize are via a warrant issued, specifically describing the place to be search or things to be seized!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: hypothetical narrative of government intrusion

… isn’t the 4th Amendment about protecting us from a hypothetical narrative…?

Well, that’s generally the problem with “law office history”. Lawyers love to tell stories, and like the news media, it’s all about “narrative”.

Real history, as unearthed and interpreted by historians, tends to be messier. Yet that’s not to say that historians don’t have their own axes-to-grind and stories-to-tell. It’s just that historians tend to feel more constrained by historical evidence than your average lawyer, judge, or supreme court justice.

So, yeah, it’s all about the “narrative”. Unless it’s about the narration, or the narrator.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Someone needs to sit this guy down and explain Kerckhoff’s Principle to him. It’s one of the most fundamental rules of information security: The Adversary Knows The System.

It means that any valid discussion of security must begin from the assumption that the bad guys who are trying to break in already know everything about how your system works, but does not necessarily already know the key, and if you can’t show that the system is still secure against such an adversary, you have to assume it’s not secure.

Kerckhoff’s Principle rejects the very concept of a “front door” that the good guys can use but hackers can’t gain access to. If there’s another way in besides the private key, you must assume that the bad guys know all about it.

David says:

Space race and secure

But, geeze, I hate to hear talk like ‘that cannot be done.’ I mean, think about if Jack Kennedy said ‘we can’t go to the moon. That cannot be done.’ [smirks] He said something else. ‘We’re gonna get there in the next decade.’ So I would say to the computer science community, let’s get the best minds in the United States on this. We can balance the interests here.

Ah, but safe backdoors are not “we can go to the moon”. They are “we can go to the moon, and nobody else will possibly ever be able to go there.”

One is pride. The other is hubris.

Just Another Anonymous Troll says:

Hypocrisy at its finest

Apple and Google are using an unreasonable, hypothetical narrative of government intrusion
This just makes me laugh. The government intruding is happening right now, but then he turns around and justifies his side with the hypothetical children/terrorists/other evils. How does he keep a straight face while he does that?

Anonymous Coward says:

“How does someone like Conley stay in his job while publicly advocating for putting the American people in more danger like that?”

Because he is aiming his soundbites at the nodding donkeys at home. Because they vote. Because they sit at home during the day being told their opinions by an authoritative-looking old white guy. And besides, they hated school and think the clever kids with all their mathy sciency stuff need to be taken down a peg or two. God made net curtains for hiding secrets, nobody needs them modern computer-thingys.

Anonymous Coward says:

I'm no expert...

Perhaps the brilliant minds at Silicon Valley can come up with a way to turn off someone’s mic when they preface a statement with the words “I’m no expert…”

They’ve just admitted to having no qualification to speak about what they intend to speak about, rendering anything they say afterwards pointless and ignorant.

Almost Anonymous says:

Re: Re: I'm no expert...

Agreed, you don’t have to be an expert. But these clowns are beyond not just expert. I don’t believe they even have a basic understanding of the technology they are spouting off about. And they are so smug in their stupidity that they won’t even bother learning the basics. Because why should they? The nerds already know it all, right?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: I'm no expert...

But this is not a problem with being an expert or not.

A smug bastard that is so full of shit that their eyes are floating, is the real problem. We need to keep a solid front wall facing these individuals with the words… “you are too corrupt to participate here!”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 I'm no expert...

“you are too corrupt to participate here!”

Too corrupt to participate in Congress?

“It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.”
            ——Mark Twain, Pudd’nhead Wilson’s New Calendar (1897)

Too corrupt to participate in Congress!

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 I'm no expert...

“A good carpenter doesn’t blame his tools.”

A good carpenter will blame his tools if they are broken or inadequate and he has no option to use ones that aren’t.

(This is just the pedant in me speaking out. It is not intended as a comment on whether or not there should be an edit feature on this site.)

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 I'm no expert...

Well, from one reformed (? 🙂 pedant to another pedant, I’d say a good carpenter doesn’t use bad tools. He/she throws them away. Not only do they do a lousy job, but they’re dangerous to use. POS screwdriver has lost its edge and keeps on slipping off and stabbing you? Better to use a good hammer and the right nail instead, or borrow a decent screwdriver in the meantime; one that’s not threatening to either ruin the job or kill somebody.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 I'm no expert...

Just think of the fun the trolls could have with an edit button, changing their comment to try and make replies to the comment look stupid. Also, there would be no indication of approximately where in a thread a comment was edited. Yes it annoying when it is trivial error that needs fixing, but knowing the where approximately a change was made when it is something like the addition or removal of a ‘not’ helps make sense of replies to the original comment.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I'm no expert...

Perhaps someone should have stopped him right there after he uttered those words, thanked him for his time, and showed him the door. You are sitting on a panel OF EXPERTS to give EXPERT testimony on the topic to Congress. You freely admit here you have no clue what you are talking about so, WTF are you doing there wasting everyone’s time.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: I'm no nerd.

I’m no expert harkens directly back to the I’m no nerd disclaimers during the SOPA committee meetings. So those of us who aren’t experts but can logic enough to understand why backdoors are bad hear it as I’m not competent enough to actually discuss this issue.

To the 100 IQ crowd, it means As a folksy common-sense sort of fellow, I’m not someone who has the pride to believe I know anything about anything because I read a book once, as is the case with all of those technical and academic types.

Seriously, they don’t understand the power of expertise, so they don’t understand how people can be certain beyond doubt of mathematical truths.

Anonymous Coward says:

Dear Citizens

We must remove your privacy to protect you from terrorists.

Pay no mind to the fact that we have become the terrorists, driving fear into your daily lives to affect public, and political opinions. We will tell you day in and day out that someone is here to rape, steal, and murder you or your children in order to get our political agendas through congress. It is okay for US to use fear to control your life, but its just not okay for someone else too. You just need to roll over and let us in… for your own good!

Dave Xanatos (profile) says:

Let's think outside the triangle

I’m no expert. I’m probably the least mathematically savvy guy in this room, maybe. But, there are a lot of great minds in the United States. I’m trying to figure out a way to balance the interests here. So I would say to the math community, let’s get the best minds in the United States on this. We can balance the interests here. We can somehow find a way to apply Pythagoras’s Theorem selectively. We can’t handicap our law enforcement by requiring them to work with the assumption that a^2 + b^2 *always* equals c^2 in right triangles. Do you want ISIS on your front lawn! THAT’S what were talking about here!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Let's think outside the triangle

a^2 + b^2 *always* equals c^2 in right triangles

Try putting your right triangle on the surface of the globe. Say, you put one leg on the equator, and the second leg pointing towards the north pole—that’ll give you a 90° angle, guaranteed.

We can confine it to that situation without loss of generality, because we can always change coordinates to move the north pole anywhere we need it to be. In other words, the right triangle could be anywhere on the surface with one leg on the equator and a second pointing north.

(For more info: Mudd Math Fun Facts)

Anonymous Coward says:

they already have backdoors to cells.

Baseband. Please do some research on it- like journalists are supposed to do. This is nothing like the 90’s crypto wars… The clipper chip never died- it was just re-imagined with a clever cover story, and now it’s in every phone, ready to scrape your unbreakable encryption keys from ram for anyone with a base station. This counter intel “debate” is distraction/misdirection (even though many of the participants likely aren’t even aware of that) -it’s an easy “win” they can give out that only furthers the intel communities goals, ensuring trust in compromised tech.

Almost Anonymous says:

Sick and tired

I’m so sick and tired of the “I’m just a stupid farmboy, but you smart guys can make it happen” line of crap that these idiots keep laying out. If your sentence begins with “I don’t understand X” then just SHUT UP. Someone should be enforcing that in hearings like this.

“Well now, I don’t understand what we’re talking about, but …”

“Then kindly take a seat and let people who do understand talk.”

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m tired of seeing this ignorant kind of reasoning based on situations that existed as a result of the technology or conventions of the day and not by any intentional act of society to support that situation. Conley’s rant about how in the good ol’ days the cops could get into your safe(ty) deposit boxes, car, home, etc., if they needed to pretends that cops could get in because those things were designed to let cops in. That is not the case. Cops could get in because anyone with a key or with a tool or with threat of force could get in, including criminals.

Technology that allows anyone in, literally allows anyone else in under certain circumstances. Encrypted systems are still vulnerable to the justice system threatening you with obstruction or contempt of court for not unlocking it, if there’s a legal rationale for that system to be unlocked. If there isn’t a legal rationale for such threats, then the cops shouldn’t have access anyway. Criminals can still get in by holding a gun to your head or to the head of a loved one or by beating the shit out of you until you unlock it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Perfect. The private industry will always have great encryption because the public already won that it wasn’t a weapon that could be export restricted and the court cases with it. However, the government contracts may have to be filled with inferior encryption because regulation!!! So, they will always have a way to privately encrypt all our phones but that giant goverment funded project (weapons, power systems, ect) will always have a backdoor built into the mandated encryption. That is how the court cases and laws stand in America. We don’t want isis or state sponsors of terrorism on our front lawns!!!! We want their jobs to be extra super easy by letting them hack us from abroad. People are idiots.

EXTREME SARCASM FOR THOSE WHO DON’T GET IT.

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s interesting to note the attempts of LEOs to separate information technology from safe deposit boxes, telephones, automobiles, and homes. All of these things are accessible to examination with a warrant, including IT.

People such as Mr. Conley are fearing the demise of unfettered, warrant-less searches of communication devices. To that I say: tough titties, and good day to you, sir.

Zonker says:

“if we can put a man on the moon, we can make backdoor encryption that doesn’t put people at risk.”

Yeah, right after we make bullets that don’t kill, tasers that don’t stun, clubs that don’t injure, knives that don’t cut, riot shields that don’t block, and bullet-proof vests that don’t stop bullets.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: The magic key they want parallels nicely to bullets that only kill evil people.

Although I’ve seen quite a bit of Texas sharpshooting (referring to the logical fallacy, not to disparage Texas or Texans) in which people shot dead or tortured were decided to be evil (criminals or terrorists) after the fact.

So in this case, anyone who has access to the backdoor key or is able to derive it via cryptanalysis is decided to be a proper authority after the fact.

JP Jones (profile) says:

How does someone like Conley stay in his job while publicly advocating for putting the American people in more danger like that?

Because it has nothing to do with safety. The police aren’t concerned with our safety. They’re concerned with whether or not we are breaking the law. And that’s it.

Why? Simple. You don’t get money out of citizens by making them safe. You get money by giving them tickets and taking all their crap. If the police were the Mafia, we’d call municipal tickets “extortion,” asset forfeiture “theft,” mass personal data collection “blackmail,” and police brutality “assault” and/or “murder.” But since it’s the police we call it “enforcing the law.”

Politicians get elected by the ignorant public for being “tough on crime” (the politicians carefully leave out what crimes are being punished). They execute their campaigns on “donations” (Mafia translation: “bribes”) from law enforcement interest groups and spend their career justifying or ignoring illegal police action while encouraging lawmakers to make more things illegal and with harsher (mostly monetary) penalties.

It’s a beautiful system if you’re on the inside; the fact that we’re essentially robbing our poorest population to pay for more people to abuse them is ignored. The U.S. has the highest total number of prisoners in the world, more than China, with about 600 thousand more prisoners and about 1 billion less people. Also, approximately 48.7% of those are for drug crimes (compared to 2.9% for violent crimes and 7% for sex crimes).

With a country so obsessed with punishment and locking people up is it any surprise our law enforcement wants more ways to find the “criminals?” Think about some of our most popular TV shows: #2 Arrow, #11 Criminal Minds, #12 The Blacklist, #14 The Mentalist, #16 NCIS, #18 Castle, #20 Bones, #25 Person of Interest, #31 NCIS: Los Angeles, #32 Suits, #36 Elementary, #37 The Wire, #40 Law and Order: SVU…of our top 40 TV shows, 13 are focused on criminals and/or law enforcement.

Of course “law enforcement” is going to be popular with voters. Unfortunately, the real criminals are not the ever-popular sexy serial killers carefully plotting their murder sprees, the ones we’re actually dealing with are single mothers and teens that are mainly getting charged with existing and/or bad paperwork. In the process we are ruining their (already bad) lives, or in many cases killing them outright (an undocumented amount, which should raise some serious red flags).

I guess justice really is blind when we choose to look away from massive amounts of injustice in our legal system and the individuals charged with enforcing it.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Also, approximately 48.7% of those are for drug crimes (compared to 2.9% for violent crimes and 7% for sex crimes).

You had me, and then you lost me. You forget that all drug dealing is violent crime. It’s just a subtler, more insidious form of violence than physical force.

If I were to kill you with a gun or a knife, you might suffer for a few moments, but then it’s over, and you’re dead. But if I kill you with an addiction, you end up just as dead in the end, but it takes years of suffering and misery before it’s over, and along the way I end up taking all of your money, destroying your family, destroying your health, destroying your relationship with your friends, and quite possibly being responsible for your descent into crime as well, in order to come up with more money to feed your addiction.

Anyone who thinks a drug dealer is somehow less bad than a “violent criminal,” or deserving of a lesser punishment than a murderer would receive, does not understand these simple facts.

RD says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Anyone who thinks a drug dealer is somehow less bad than a “violent criminal,” or deserving of a lesser punishment than a murderer would receive, does not understand these simple facts.”

He didn’t say the 48% was for drug dealers, he said it was for drug crimes. Not all drug crimes involve dealing, especially in this country, where mere possession or even proximity or associates is enough to land you a stretch even if you aren’t actually selling.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

People who use illegal narcotics, whether addicted or not, are bankrolling violent crime.

Only because those narcotics were made illegal. You’d have said the same thing about alcohol during Prohibition. Remove the illegality, and the Mafia moves on to gambling and prostitution. And Hollywood.

The illegality is what’s making the Zetas rich. You should be blaming politicians for bankrolling violent crime, not drug users.

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

You forget that all drug dealing is violent crime.

Bullshit. Out of that total number of “drug crimes” 46% involved marijuana. Marijuana is not physically additive and does not produce all of those “scary” things you listed. Nor is it a “gateway drug”.

I know quite a few people in my life who use marijuana and all of them hold regular jobs, have families, pay taxes and have not “descended into crime” beyond using a substance that is currently illegal.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

It would have been more honest if you’d just admitted you’re hysterically opposed to illicit drugs, up to and including you’d feel perfectly justified in going to pretty much any lengths to stop anyone from having any access to them or using them in any way, shape, or form and you see nothing wrong with tossing a specific form of business or consumer into jail because the product in question is “illicit drugs.” Admit it.

Certain religions used to believe the same things about other religions, and some still do.

So, you’re a wannabe petty tyrant who believes himself correct and to hell with anyone who doesn’t agree, and you believe guns kill people, not people kill people.

Sad. No, I don’t care to hear any sob stories about relatives or friends who managed to off themselves via illicit drugs. That’s irrelevant to what I’m complaining about.

JP Jones (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

You had me, and then you lost me. You forget that all drug dealing is violent crime. It’s just a subtler, more insidious form of violence than physical force.

Uh, no. This logic makes absolutely no sense in the context of what I wrote. “Drug crimes” could be anything from cartel smuggling to getting caught with a couple grams of marijuana.

Likewise, if you’re going to complain about life-destroying addictions, I can’t take you seriously if you don’t explain why all individuals selling tobacco and alcohol products are not in prison. Heck, if you’re talking about addiction, sugar and caffeine are addictive substances that have huge markets.

You’re making some massive assumptions with “drug crimes” and I’m not sure how selling addictive substances can ever be equated with murder, even assuming the majority of people in that 48.7% were dealers (much more likely for most to be users).

Not that any of that really relates to my argument. The point is that we have a third more individuals locked up in prison than a country that outnumbers us by a billion people and is under the control of an authoritarian government known for human rights abuses.

If that doesn’t terrify you, it really, really should.

Anonymous Coward says:

I think the idea is brilliant!

And the US needs to be a leader in this. I would humbly suggest to our distinguished Congresspersons that they move expeditiously, starting with the US government itself.

Surely, if NASA could put a man on the moon in less than 10 years, the NSA, with all it’s smart, dedicated, patriotic, people and billions of black budget dollars can solve the golden key problem in the same time frame. Once they have done that, all US government and military crypto can be converted to the new format, with golden keys made available in response to UN Security Council resolutions and/or International Criminal Court subpoena or equivalents.

Surely, as the Leader of the Free World(tm), and a beacon of the rule of law, the United States should consider it a moral imperative to be a front runner in this vital area.

Anonymous Coward says:

I just wonder...

Is there ever a real security expert at these hearings who is willing to explain HOW this is supposed to be achieved? And I mean more than just “Make a backdoor and only give the good guys access”.
It always seems to be these nuts that proudly states that they hardly know how to use email on one side and just want magic to happen.
Here is a suggestion : Why not, instead of making the whole population vulnerable, make the NSA make a system that ONLY monitors terrorists, sex offenders and other maniacs and never collects any information on other citizens?
This is just as possible as making a “golden key” that can only be used by “the good guys”.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: I just wonder...

Is there ever a real security expert at these hearings who is willing to explain HOW this is supposed to be achieved?

No, because any real experts on the subject know that it flat out can’t be done. There is no such thing as a ‘secure backdoor’ that only a select group can access, any security vulnerability is available for anyone to use to gain access, it’s just a matter of time.

However, they don’t want to hear that. They are determined that if enough ‘smart minds’ get together they can break fundamental reality, despite the fact that it flat out isn’t going to happen, because they are in full panic mode over the idea that they might not be able to go browsing through people’s phones and/or tablets on a whim anymore if encryption becomes more widespread.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: I just wonder...

“Why not, instead of making the whole population vulnerable, make the NSA make a system that ONLY monitors terrorists, sex offenders and other maniacs and never collects any information on other citizens?”

Indeed!! And that there’s an RFC that solves the problem of detecting malicious internet traffic is proof that the NSA can accomplish this.

That One Guy (profile) says:

When hypotheticals aren't

Apple and Google are using an unreasonable, hypothetical narrative of government intrusion as the rationale for the new encryption software, ignoring altogether the facts as I’ve just explained them.

Maybe that’s because his ‘facts’ are wrong and the ‘hypotheticals’ aren’t?

The government absolutely is involved in massive intrusive spying on the public, and it wasn’t too long ago that a case made it before the Supreme Court, where they had to explain to police that yes, rummaging around through someone’s phone or electronic device was indeed a ‘search’, and required a warrant as a result. There is nothing ‘hypothetical’ about those situations, they have happened, and continue to happen.

If the government and police don’t like the thought of losing one of their favorite toys, then maybe they should have acted responsibly with it in the first place.

any moose cow word says:

Re: When hypotheticals aren't

There will always be abuses, and that’s why these government agencies will always need proper oversight. The public needs to disband this ridiculous notion that anyone could be given that kind of power and not ever exploit it. You know, just like trusting chaste fifty-something priest with your virgin daughters.

Anonymous Coward says:

Subcommittee chairman Will Hurd (TX)

This webcast hearing is the first time I’ve ever seen the chairman of the Information Technology Subcommittee. I hadn’t heard about his election.

Wikipedia: Will Hurd:

William Ballard “Will” Hurd (born August 19, 1977) is an American politician who is the U.S. Representative for Texas’s 23rd congressional district, a district which stretches 800 miles, from San Antonio to El Paso . . . He took office on January 3, 2015. . . .

Early years

 . . . He returned to Texas after his CIA service and worked for Crumpton Group, strategic advisory firm, as a partner and a senior adviser with the cybersecurity firm FusionX. . . .

Committee assignments

In his first term in Congress, Hurd was made the Chairman of the Information Technology Subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (which focuses in part on cybersecurity), which is unusual for a first-term member of Congress. . . .

Timespanr says:

Crime and Money

What if we as a country, were to read the US Constitution, and declare the removal of ALL laws, US, State, & Local Jurisdictions, why their is not a victum, involved to stand as plantive.
There are more BS Laws on the Books destroying the lives of young people in this country, for what response?
I would suggest to you, that if Governments were managed properly, with assest being equal to outlays (expesses), we would not be re-filling the dollars the the expess of the Citizens.
Beyond that, the US Constitution, makes any law that is put in place without merit, shall we say, to make money for a jurisdiction, is illegal.
If you don’t like Drugs, ok, but, until you get the US Government out of the Drug Cartells pocket, you are going to have drugs!
The President is a Terrorist
The Congress is Work for their Selves and Against the American People
What pray tell dis you, do you expect?

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