Ahead Of His Senate Hearing, James Comey Pushes His 'Going Dark' Theory

from the same-old-Comey,-same-bad-arguments dept

Ahead of his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, FBI Director James Comey released his planned testimony, which covers a variety of subjects Comey hoped to cover during the hearing. A lot of the talking points were touched on, but Comey spent most of his time fielding questions from pissed-off senators about how much they were disappointed in recent FBI investigations.

The testimony Comey planned to give contains another discussion of the FBI-centric “going dark” issue. According to Comey, device encryption has blocked FBI’s searches nearly 50% of the time, preventing it from pulling data from more than 3,000 phones. Comey also says other approaches — such as using metadata or cellphone forensic software — won’t work. They’re too expensive and won’t scale. Left unsaid is Comey’s desire for legislation or a few precedential court decisions to force manufacturers to compromise their customers’ security.

He makes this argument by conflating privacy and security and using this conflation to arrive at a completely wrong conclusion. From Comey’s testimony [PDF]:

Some observers have conceived of this challenge as a tradeoff between privacy and security. In our view, the demanding requirements to obtain legal authority to access data—such as by applying to a court for a warrant or a wiretap — necessarily already account for both privacy and security. The FBI is actively engaged with relevant stakeholders, including companies providing technological services, to educate them on the corrosive effects of the Going Dark challenge on both public safety and the rule of law. The FBI thanks the committee members for their engagement on this crucial issue.

Warrants and court orders cover the “privacy” end of the argument, but using court orders (or legislation) to force device makers to build backdoors in users’ devices throws security out the window. The balancing act in the encryption debate has never been “privacy vs. security.” It’s been “security vs. insecurity.” Comey’s false equation presents privacy and security as two sides to the same coin, yet somehow completely separable in the presence of a court order. Fourth Amendment protections cover the privacy end, but showing up at a device backdoor with a warrant in hand does nothing for anyone’s security.

Comey doesn’t want a balancing act, despite all his assertions about “adult conversations” and deferring to the “smart people” at tech companies. He wants device owners to sacrifice security in exchange for protections they’re already guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment.

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Comments on “Ahead Of His Senate Hearing, James Comey Pushes His 'Going Dark' Theory”

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morons panicking unite says:

stupid twit comey

people that were smart went “dark” 15+ years ago…

i ocme here to tell you this cause obviously you nitwits about don’t realize its too late to stop.

We’ve now had 15 years to learn how to create and test our own encryptians and how to break them….

and yes aacs 2.0 is broken.

Also why use technology at all , when you can give a message in whole or part to someone not on any no fly list…that is already going somewhere it can then be taken and sent in any other ways.

YOU created this form of intelligence by all your spying….Had you not been so paranoid and scared and harmed those that tried to help you….well it might be a better less scarey world for what you really don’t know.

later all and this ip will self destruct log away.

Anonymous Coward says:


They’re too expensive and won’t scale

I’m all for the FBI being budget conscious. However, whenever I see a law enforcement agency complaining that they need to replace what they’re doing with something else because the current system "won’t scale" — alarm bells go off. It’s not like we suddenly have more terrorists or crimes over $10k happening than we used to with the current budget and techniques; so if they’re wanting to scale out, that means they want to scale out investigations. That’s usually at the expense of the citizenry.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Looking down the road

Comey is leading up to our needing permission to communicate with each other, right after he gets the press to accede to getting permission to publish news. Of course, that permission comes with the caveat of surveillance (check the non-negotiable TOS that comes with the permission slip), which in turn will lead to approval of both sides of the conversation, prior to having the conversation. He is just trying to eeeeease into the long term goal.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Looking down the road

Amusingly, even if he gets what he wants it will only make people go for open source alternatives that are beyond the Govt control net and people doing journalism anonymously behind these same security measures the US can’t control at all.

It’s a lost war even if he gets some wind in some battles. I’d compare it to Vietnam where a very well equipped military with a heavy handed govt behind got their arses handed back to themselves by a bunch of underdeveloped apes. (I’m using the term ape as the government probably thought they were, this is not meant to degrade the Vietnamese)

Alkurhah says:

Re: Looking down the road

All part of the permission based society where people need “permission” to do things. That includes permission to write certain things (copyright) or to make or do various things (patents). I understand that Comey is, not surprisingly, a big fan of those as well.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: First came window blinds...

Revoke your rights, act as judge jury and executioner when desired, make up bs to calm the outragers, turn off the body cameras to allow self-attestation under presumption of righteousness, take bribes, seize your stuff without penalty, and just in general do whatever the h*** they want where and when ever they feel like it, without a care in the world.

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