Former NSA Directors Coming Out Strongly *Against* Backdooring Encryption

from the didn't-see-that-coming dept

Earlier this summer, we were taken a bit by surprise when both former NSA/CIA boss Michael Hayden, along with former DHS boss Michael Chertoff, came out fairly strongly against backdooring encryption at a time when their counterparts still in the government seemed to be leaning in the other direction and have been pushing proposals to mandate backdoors. And it appears they’re not backing down. Hayden has now doubled down with further statements against backdooring encryption, according to Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai at Vice’s Motherboard.

Michael Hayden, the former head of the US top spy agencies, the CIA, and the NSA, thinks the US government should stop railing against encryption and should support strong crypto rather than asking for backdoors.

The US is ?better served by stronger encryption, rather than baking in weaker encryption,? he said during a panel on Tuesday.

Later, he told Lorenzo that part of his thinking is that the intelligence community doesn’t need such backdoors since it has other ways of getting that info:

?In retrospect, we mastered the problem we created by the lack of the Clipper Chip,? he said. ?We were able to do a whole bunch of other things. Some of the other things were metadata, and bulk collection and so on.?

Hayden is being a bit snarky there. He knows that privacy advocates will take his words about backdooring encryption and celebrate them, so he’s using it at the same time to argue in favor of the other problematic programs — programs that Hayden is most closely associated with involving mass surveillance. He’s also being disingenuous. The metadata and mass surveillance efforts generally give you access to a different kind of information. What Hayden leaves out, of course, is the real reason why backdoors usually aren’t that important: because there are almost always ways to hack into encrypted data, though that also raises serious questions.

Meanwhile, another former NSA director, Mike McConnell, has joined with the other two Michaels in arguing against backdoors. This according to Kaveh Waddell at the National Journal:

?Don?t get in the way of pro?gress,? Mc?Con?nell said Thursday at a pan?el dur?ing an en?cryp?tion sum?mit hos?ted by The Wash?ing?ton Post. ?Don?t get in the way of in?nov?a?tion and cre?ativ?ity, be?cause this is go?ing to hap?pen. Some?body?s go?ing to provide this en?cryp?tion.?

Mc?Con?nell?s po?s?i?tion is a com?plete de?par?ture from the per?spect?ive he rep?res?en?ted in gov?ern?ment, a shift he has pub?licly ac?know?ledged. When he ran the Na?tion?al Se?cur?ity Agency in the 1990s, Mc?Con?nell was a vo?cal sup?port?er of the Clip?per Chip, a device de?veloped by the NSA that al?lowed the gov?ern?ment to de?crypt elec?tron?ic com?mu?nic?a?tions.

Of course, what’s mostly left out of this discussion is that both McConnell and Hayden are now in the private sector — Hayden at the Chertoff Group with Michael Chertoff, and McConnell at defense contracting giant (and former Ed Snowden employer) Booz Allen Hamilton — where both have economic reasons for supporting actual stronger security, rather than undermining such security. Either way, in this debate, it seems that those pushing for backdooring encryption are increasingly being marginalized entirely. Even their normally faithful supporters have moved on into the world of reality, where backdooring encryption only leads to trouble.

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Comments on “Former NSA Directors Coming Out Strongly *Against* Backdooring Encryption”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Selling your soul.

We should NEVER celebrate these types. That we express the same opinion (some of the way) is one thing, but I will never be on the side of such greedy bastards.
Whether it is power or money they are greedy for, they have shown that they put the old saying about selling your mother to shame. These people are willing to sell out the people of the whole country, or even the world, for money and/or power.
It is disgusting and it sickens me to see it time and time again from those in power.
In many ways they are more dangerous than terrorists, serialkilles and what other scary pictures I can throw out there.
Their actions have certainly destroyed or killed people in droves and not just people guilty of a crime. All this for decisions and opinions that can be bought.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Selling your soul.

Unfortunately, we are led by psychopaths. It is a long time since Cincinattus existed and looks like men like him are not to be found among the political class nowadays.

The western political class more and more shows its admiration to tyrants and more and more it follows their example. The more they screw the people, the more they fear the people, the more they use the government machine against those that keep it fueled.

There is no escaping from the psychopaths, look at Switzerland direct democracy example and see what it is becoming right now. It is a hollow shell of its former self, it was subverted by their media and the agitators.

Prepare for the hallakah, for full global communism in a few decades. We let the enemies of our aristocracy to destroy it, now there is no one to protect us.

Mark Wing (user link) says:

They have more to spend developing their own exploits than any other entity in the world. Not having back doors gives them an advantage because of all those super computers and mathematicians. They are probably sitting on a hoard of exploits no one else has.

Who needs back doors or front doors when there’s probably already cracks in the floor boards?

GEMont (profile) says:

The new way is the old way.

Discovered in the waste basket, next to a broken shredder, at the White House, by cleaning staff.


Level 33 Eyes Only.


All this public debate about back-doors VS strong encryption is having one very undesirable side effect that must be dealt with before we can go ahead with plan A.

Public awareness.

The more that government officials talk to the adversary about adding back-doors to their phones and computers, the more the public becomes aware that its being spied on, lied to and robbed of its freedoms and rights, and this is extremely detrimental to our goal of mass surveillance of the American Public, and is in fact, harming the entire war effort.

Lets get back to doing things the old fashioned way.

Let the whole notion of back doors die – so that public discourse and eventually, public memory, may die with it, and go back to doing things the way that we always did in the past. Secretly. Behind their backs.

Say nothing and do it anyways. When caught, deny it and set up a secondary operation so we can openly shut down the one that got caught and say we’ll never do it again.

Tell the public that back doors are not cool and that we’re dropping that whole idea in the waste basket, then secretly add back-doors to everything the public touches, using public money to bribe companies where possible, and when necessary, secret legislation to force the issue with the companies that balk at the idea.

Tell the public that strong encryption is the way to go and then make sure the encryption they wind up with is fully, but secretly compromised in a thousand ways, and spend as much of the tax payer’s money as needed to insure that any un-compromised encryption technology the public can access is easily breakable.

Its time to un-Snowden the situation and return to the tried and true path of full deception, as God had intended it.

Hail Hydra.

Head of the Public Bullshit Department,
Chuck U. Farley


The Secret Agent Guys want to simply get back to doing things in secret and no more of this silly talking to the adversary bullshit, about how and why you’re going to steal their private information and remove their legal rights.

And that is exactly the way things are going to go now.

Secrecy: What YOU don’t know, cannot hurt THEM.

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