Police Chief Demands Holes In Encryption Because Some Cops Decided To Participate In The DC Insurrection

from the sure,-make-this-all-about-us-when-it's-really-just-about-you dept

As more evidence comes to light showing a disturbing amount of law enforcement participation in the January 6th attack on the Capitol, police departments around the nation are finally being forced to face something they’ve ignored for far too long.

The law enforcement officers who participated in the insurrection attacked officers attempting to defend the building, or, at the very least, did nothing to discourage the lawless actions occurring all around them. The officers that went to DC and engaged in a riot aren’t an anomaly. They’ve been part of law enforcement for as long as law enforcement has existed: bigots with a penchant for violence and a thirst for power.

These officers are finally beginning to be rooted out, but only because they did things no one can ignore. Hundreds of participants produced hundreds of recordings, turning their own celebration of their attempted election-thwarting into the evidence needed to identify them and charge them with federal crimes. Posts made to social media platforms provided more evidence, tying incriminating statements to location data to place off-duty cops on the scene.

Now that agencies are finally confronting their in-house white supremacist/militia problem, they’re asking for everyone to be made less secure so they can handle the problem that’s been hiding in plain sight for years.

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo — who presides over an agency with more than its share of bad cops — was asked what officials like himself are doing to confront this problem. In response, Chief Acevedo asked for Congress to do him — and other law enforcement agencies — a favor:

Acevedo… said anonymous online platforms on the “dark web” are making such [internal] investigations impossible, even for departments with sufficient resources. He expects the move away from public platforms like Facebook and Twitter to grow rapidly in response to the FBI arrests of those who rioted at the Capitol.

This month, Acevedo was asked by the House Oversight and Reform Committee to explain what actions police chiefs are taking, and responded by asking for help. For years, law enforcement officials have asked for passage of a federal law that would require such platforms to have a “back door” that law enforcement can access if they have “a legitimate investigative need and a court order” to gain entry.

Then he blamed social media platforms for his own inability to police his police, calling them out as the real lawbreakers here:

“Congress’s failure to act has enabled industry giants to flaunt the law and operate with impunity,” Acevedo wrote in response.

First off, if the bad cops are shifting to “dark web” platforms in response to their own opsec failures during the January 6th riot, mandating backdoors that affect “industry giants” isn’t going to make it any easier to track down cops who’ve moved on to “darker” web services.

Second, law enforcement agencies’ continuous failure to hold officers accountable or to perform rigorous background checks should not be used as leverage to make services and devices less secure for millions of Americans. Citizens have already had to watch their tax dollars pay the salaries of brutal thugs whose loyalty to each other often supersedes their sworn duties as public servants. They don’t need to be punished further just so it’s a little easier for cops to perform the occasional internal investigation.

Finally, the encryption offered by device makers and communications platforms also protects cops — not just from accountability, as Acevedo implies here — but from malicious hackers and criminals who would love access to cops’ devices, communications, and sensitive files. A backdoor for bad cops is a backdoor for good cops — and a backdoor that strips a layer of security away from everyone who uses these devices and services.

The ugliness that permeates law enforcement needs to be rooted out. But the security of millions of Americans shouldn’t be weakened just because those policing the police haven’t done much of this policing for decades. They’ve had open access to evidence for years and rarely used it. Now that their sins are too big to ignore until the next news cycle hits shouldn’t be the impetus for backdoor mandates.

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Comments on “Police Chief Demands Holes In Encryption Because Some Cops Decided To Participate In The DC Insurrection”

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22 Comments
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

This month, Acevedo was asked by the House Oversight and Reform Committee to explain what actions police chiefs are taking, and responded by asking for help. For years, law enforcement officials have asked for passage of a federal law that would require such platforms to have a “back door” that law enforcement can access if they have “a legitimate investigative need and a court order” to gain entry.

Yes. This is totally sane and not at all a contradiction. Because "bad guys" are obviously going to obey the law that says they have to commit crimes, and/or leave evidence of their crimes, in public places where police can easily find any understand them.

And no "bad guy" would ever dare to flout the law so badly as to create a platform the uses non-backdoored encryption when backdoors have been legally mandated.

/s

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

What makes you think they don’t understand full well what they’re asking for? At this point they have had plenty of time to become educated on the subject, and if they’re making public statements like this I’ve no doubt that multiple people have stepped forward to educated them, so it seems entirely fair and reasonable to assume that they are either willfully ignorant or know why what they’re demanding is dangerous for the public and consider it acceptable collateral damage.

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

But but but I thought it was just a few bad apples & they were taking steps to root them out?

Why do they need to break encryption, can’t they just ask these good truthful officers to tell the truth? Oh you worry they might lie?

Once upon a time they would actually investigate instead of expecting a computer to do the work for them. I mean no one flies inside the country without ID & records that can be obtained, no car could make a trip to DC from far away without stopping for gas, & y’all get those warrants for Google/Apple to tell you what users were near an area at a certain time…

Its almost like you are now using your own bad apples as a reason to get more expansive powers to spy on the rest of us without oversight… instead of making sure there aren’t any bad apples who would abuse this new power still on the job.

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Upstream (profile) says:

Art Acevedo? Really?

Art Acevedo is one of the last people anyone should be consulting about anything. This guy called his own murderous cops "heroes" while he was Chief of a department filled with murdering, raping, assaulting, thieving, bullying, lying thugs.

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, who hailed the cops who killed Tuttle and Nicholas as "heroes," …

He should really be the "poster thug" for most of what is wrong with policing in America today. Why he keeps being consulted and interviewed about how to fix policing is very worrisome. It is a scary example of asking a fox how to secure the henhouses.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

"Then he blamed social media platforms for his own inability to police his police"

Weird, considering that social media is how everyone witnessed them breaking the law in the first place. Isn’t that the event we’re talking about here – where so many people were using those platforms to livestream their crimes that their social media "friends" are identifying them to authorities?

"“Congress’s failure to act has enabled industry giants to flaunt the law and operate with impunity,” Acevedo wrote in response."

…in response to his own men breaking the law and operating with impunity…

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Bloof (profile) says:

I doubt many of the police involved in the riot will suffer any consequences, they’ll be suspended and quietly reinstated when nobody’s looking as white nationalism is a feature, not a bug as far as the law enforcement community are concerned. They run recruitment ads on Breitbart for crying out loud.

Clean up your back yard before making any more requests for power.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Yesss, that's the problem...

Of course, because it was a complete surprise to have cops who showed contempt for the law, willingness to engage in or stand aside and witness violence, and were big buddies with racists and/or conspiracy theorists.

Nope, police departments were utterly shocked and blindsided to find out that they were employing people like that, and it was entirely the fault of encryption so naturally it’s the encryption that’s the problem and needs to go, because police departments have no other way to spot officers who might abuse their power and/or are violent nutjobs otherwise.

Anonymous Coward says:

Yeah, i knew this riot was going to be the go-to excuse for loads of bad ideas, laws, etc. It does not disappoint. The best part is the groups who were totally on board with the mindset behind the rioters (or even the riot itself) are some of the first to whip out the "we need new laws and capabilities" trope.

How about you just do the damn job we are supposedly already paying your for? The fact you haven’t been doing it is not going to be solved with more money and authority and a further erosion of our rights.

crazy_diamond (profile) says:

It’s funny how cops always promote themselves as bloodhounds who are gifted in sniffing our crime, yet whose keen senses are somehow nullified when the criminals wear the same uniform, or even ride in the same car. Then, when one of their own is caught, they’ll all say how "good" cops don’t want those "bad apples" on the force. This leads to only one conclusion: that most cops are bad, since they keep voting for the noxious unions contracts which make it nearly impossible to get rid of the "bad apples". Compounding the problem is that these contracts allow even the rarely fired cop to head right down the road and get hired by another chapter of the gang since their disciplinary and personnel records can’t be released.

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