White House Apparently Not Necessarily In Agreement With FBI's Position On Encryption Backdoors
from the say-something-dammit dept
There is a (reasonable) tendency to argue that in this big fight over encryption backdoors and “going dark” and “should Apple help the FBI” to assume that the various DOJ/FBI efforts to force backdoors into encryption are the official position of the Obama administration. After all, the Justice Department is a part of the administration and the head of the DOJ, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, reports to President Obama. And the FBI is a part of the DOJ. But it’s also been quite clear for some time that there are a variety of opinions within the White House on these issues, with many outside of the DOJ not supporting backdooring encryption at all. In fact, many are actively opposed to such ideas. And now it’s reaching the stage where people are starting to push stories that the White House is not at all happy with FBI Director James Comey and his crusade on this issue.
With regards to the Apple standoff, “It’s just not clear [Comey] is speaking for the administration,” said Richard Clarke, a former White House counterterrorism and cybersecurity chief. “We know there have been administration meetings on this for months. The proposal that Comey had made on encryption was rejected by the administration.”
“I have been very surprised at how public and inflammatory, frankly, the FBI and the Justice Department?s approach has been on this,” said Chris Finan, a former National Security Council cybersecurity adviser.
“That doesn’t tend to be the administration?s preferred approach to handling things.”
There are a lot more quotes in the article suggesting similar things (and also discussing FBI issues beyond just the Apple/encryption debate).
Indeed, back last fall, we noted that leaked documents showed that many in the White House did not agree with Comey or the FBI on this issue — and some pushed for a public statement opposing backdooring encryption. Unfortunately, the administration later took the cowardly approach of agreeing not to push for legislation, but refusing to take a strong public stance on the issue, because they didn’t want to anger the law enforcement community. So, instead, you have the DOJ and FBI — representatives of the administration — now running wild, pushing dangerous legal theories that will undermine key elements of computer security, and lots of people think that’s the administration’s official position.
The White House failed badly in not taking a public stance on this months ago, and it should fix that now.