Despite Stream Of Leaks Exposing Tremendous Gov't Surveillance Capabilities, James Comey Still Complaining About 'Going Dark'

from the really-just-working-with-a-single-talking-point-these-days dept

Following the Shadow Brokers’ partial dumping of NSA exploits, a new batch of CIA exploits has hit the web via Wikileaks. Contained inside both sets of leaks was information explaining why encryption isn’t much of a problem for the intelligence community. The NSA has put plenty of time and money into breaking encryption, but much of its Tailored Access Operations — much like the contents of the CIA dump — involve access efforts that bypass encryption completely by making themselves at home on the targeted hardware/device.

Despite these leaks, FBI Director James Comey is still insisting encryption is a problem. In his recent appearance at Boston College’s cybersecurity conference, Comey had this to say:

[C]omey said that he a fan of “strong encryption” but noted that “it is making more and more of the room of what the FBI investigates dark.”

Between September and November, the FBI received 2,800 devices it had lawful authority to open but could not open 1,200 of them “with any technique,” he said.

Comey (again) called for “balance,” a term he never bothers to define, but hints heavily at private companies being made to play by his rules, rather than offering any form of compromise from his end.

And it’s partially true: devices seized after an arrest can’t be forced open by exploits. The exploits need to be present on the devices first. But investigations always precede arrests. At this point, efforts can be made to target known devices to provide access during the investigation and prevent them from being locked up once they’re seized. The legal framework, unfortunately, doesn’t really exist at this point, but a lack of specific permission has never stopped the FBI from acting first and litigating later.

The FBI also has expanded access to the NSA’s full-take surveillance programs, thanks to the recent lifting of restrictions. Nearly every phone utilizes the internet in some way, which would expose data and communications to the NSA’s taps. This won’t capture everything stored on devices, but it’s far more info than the FBI would have otherwise. Comey’s repeated complaints about “going dark” make less and less sense every time a new surveillance secret leaks.

Every new surveillance leak points to another disturbing fact: the FBI’s promises of security and safety — in reference to courtroom requests for “technical assistance” from device manufacturers — are bullshit. If the NSA and CIA can’t keep their exploits out of the public’s hands, there’s zero chance the FBI would somehow keep leakers and/or criminals from obtaining its cell phone-cracking secrets. The only balance that can be achieved by undermining device encryption is one where everyone loses.

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Comments on “Despite Stream Of Leaks Exposing Tremendous Gov't Surveillance Capabilities, James Comey Still Complaining About 'Going Dark'”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: What's the root problem?

….relax, here’s the solemn oath of office that Comey swore to:

” I {name} do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God. “

Comey will therefore defend the 4th Amendment at all costs.

Whatsamatter — don’t you guys trust your government officials ??

(if U don’t trust your government– what is your solution ??)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

What does encryption have to do with gaining access to a locked device?

Dumping the raw contents of the device is relatively straightforward. If the device is unencrypted, then dumping the raw contents is good enough to grant investigators access to the device’s content (pictures, texts, e-mails, etc.), if any. If the device is encrypted, then dumping the raw contents only gives them the ciphered bytes, and they need to decrypt those bytes to continue. If the encryption is of good quality, decrypting the contents is hard, which is why Comey wants to mandate that everyone use bad encryption that can be easily broken by criminals (and also investigators).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

and also investigators

you already said criminals.

Not all investigators are criminals. Most believe they are acting under lawful authority, and some are even acting under authority of a constitutionally valid law (valid warrant, obtained from true evidence presented in a fair light to a neutral judge, etc.). The problem is the near total lack of accountability for investigators who act outside that regime:

  • Judge shopping until they find a judge who does not care about the deficiencies in the warrant application
  • Submitting misleading applications (i.e. pen register application to justify a stingray)
    • Submitting applications based on information the investigator reasonably should know is insufficient or unreliable, but structuring the application to read as if the information is both sufficient and perfectly reliable ("anonymous tips" and criminal informants)
  • Exceeding the scope of the approved warrant
  • Acting with neither a warrant nor a judicially pre-approved reason for warrantless action (exigent circumstances, etc.)
BlueLightMemory says:

Why Comey Cries

Comey’s problem is that while he talks out of both sides of his mouth, his actions show he has a deep seated fetish that all American citizens should have no privacy, or 4th amendments rights. This is why he hates good encryption.

He wants to be the boss, the big boss over everyone. Comey’s way or no way. LOL.

Get lost Comey.

SpaceLifeForm says:

Mr. Comey, meet Mr. Comey

“There is no such thing as absolute privacy in America,” Comey said, because “there is no place in America outside of judicial reach.”

[He has MIC and DOJ confused]

Comey added that he himself is a fan of privacy, especially with his Instagram account, which he said has nine followers and is limited to members of his family, and maybe a serious boyfriend of one of his daughters. “I don’t want anyone looking at my pictures,” he said.

[Doubt anyone does]

Personanongrata says:

Totalitarian Control Freak

Despite Stream Of Leaks Exposing Tremendous Gov’t Surveillance Capabilities, James Comey Still Complaining About ‘Going Dark’

How many persons has FBI/DOJ prosecuted of those involved the massive tens of trillions of dollars in fiscal control fraud perpetrated by bankers, insurers, underwriters (etal) in 2008 in part while under Jim Comey’s "leadership" (scare quotes were used to inform the reader that the author of this comment is using the word within the quotes out of context of it’s definition) beginning in 2013?


Highlighted text below is from a letter sent by Elizabeth Warren to Jim Comey in 2016:

Established by Congress in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown, the FCIC’s statutory mandate included "refer[ring] to the Attorney General of the United States and any appropriate State attorney general any person that the Commission finds may have violated the laws of the United States in relation to such crisis." 1 The full archives of the FCIC proceedings have only recently been released.2
My staff has reviewed these records and identified 11 separate FCIC referrals of individuals or corporations to DOJ in cases where the FCIC found "serious indications of violation[s]" of federal securities or other laws consistent with this statutory mandate. 3 Nine specific individuals were implicated in these referrals – yet not one of these nine has gone to prison or been prosecuted for a criminal offense. Similarly, my staff identified 14 corporations that were referred to DOJ by the FCIC for potential violations of securities or other laws. Not one of the 14 was not criminally prosecuted, nor as any of the individuals responsible for the actions described in the FCIC referrals. Only five of these 14 corporations paid any fine or suffered any additional consequences for their actions. 4 The DOJ’s inability to obtain meaningful convictions or settlements in the vast majority of these FCIC referrals – let alone in any other cases involving senior Wall Street executives – suggests that the Department failed to hold the individuals and companies most responsible for the financial crisis and the Great Recession accountable.

How many persons has FBI referred to DOJ for prosecution of those involved in the kidnapping, torture and indefinite detention without charge under Jim Comey’s "leadership"?


However one person was prosecuted in 2012 not for committing acts of torture but rather confirming to a reporter that the US government sanctioned the use of torture.

His name is John Kiriakou.

How many persons has FBI referred to DOJ for prosecution of those involved in lying the nation (US) into war in Iraq in 2003 (Afghanistan also but that is for another comment) at the cost of hundreds of thousands of American and Iraqi dead (possibly more), trillions of US dollars squandered and the complete destruction of the Middle East’s most advanced and secular nation under Jim Comey’s "leadership"?


The war criminals responsible for these barbarous acts of wanton aggression still walk the land unencumbered. They are paid for their public speaking engagements and have security details and pensions paid for with US tax dollars.

How many persons has FBI Referred to DOJ for prosecution of those involved in creating the wholly unconstitutional total surveillance state (at cost of hundreds of billions of US dollars) that sweeps up ever last American’s digital data and stores it indefinitely for potential future exploitation under Jim Comey’s "leadership"?


Jim Comey in complete abdication of his oath to protect/defend the US Constitution actually aids/abets in the US governments criminal boondoggle that surveils everything and everyone all the time.

It is clear that in his capacity as Director of FBI Jim Comey serves power before the rule of law and would not recognize leadership if she descended from the heavens herself and bit him on his royal rump.

Jim Comey has all the makings of a totalitarian control freak. If he believes living your digital life in the open without encryption or with baked in government exploits (soft/hardware) he should lead by example.

The highlighted text below was excerpted from the website a page titled James Comey

In August 2005, Comey left the DOJ and became General Counsel and Senior Vice President of Lockheed Martin, based in Bethesda, Maryland. In 2010, he became General Counsel at Bridgewater Associates, based in Westport, Connecticut. In early 2013, he left Bridgewater to become a Senior Research Scholar and a Hertog Fellow on National Security Law at Columbia Law School in the city of New York. He served on the Board of Directors of HSBC Holdings until July 2013.[2]

Jim Comey served both high finance and the defence industry in his capacity as a private individual from 2005 – 2013 are there any potential conflicts of interest in his public capacity as Director FBI ?

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