FBI Director Ignores More Than 500 Ongoing Capitol Raid Prosecutions To Complain That Encryption Is Keeping Criminals From Being Caught

from the why-are-all-these-trees-blocking-my-view-of-the-forest? dept

FBI Director Chris Wray needs to shut the fuck up about encryption.

It has been 1,112 days since the FBI promised to perform a recount of encrypted devices in its possession, after overstating it by thousands for months in service of former director Jim Comey’s “going dark” haymaking.

As of November 2016, the number in the FBI’s possession was only around 880 devices. It suddenly jumped to 3,000 six months later. Then it doubled to 6,000 in less than five months. By the end of that fiscal year, four months later, the FBI had added another 1,775 uncrackable devices to its total.

That brought the alleged total to nearly 8,000 devices. The actual number — should the FBI ever get around to releasing it — is expected to be under 2,000.

Add to this the fact that the FBI doesn’t seem to be having much trouble hunting down criminals and terrorists. The FBI ran its own backdoored encrypted chat software for months, leading to dozens of arrests around the world. It ran seized child porn servers in order to deliver malware that coughed up identifying info about visitors to illicit dark web sites. Its crack team of undercover agents and informants have put a large number of terrorists behind bars, even though these successes are tainted by the agency’s willingness to radicalize people just so it can bust them. And it has obtained all sorts of evidence to use against more than 500 defendants in the January 6th Capitol raid cases.

Despite all of this, Chris Wray is still complaining about encryption’s supposed ability to render the FBI (and other law enforcement agencies) blind and useless. His recent testimony before the House Judiciary Committee takes time to highlight all the FBI’s successes. But it also allows Wray to show off the latest in dead horse-beating rhetorical devices.

The proliferation of end-to-end and user-only-access encryption is a serious issue that increasingly limits law enforcement’s ability, even after obtaining a lawful warrant or court order, to access critical evidence and information needed to disrupt threats, protect the public, and bring perpetrators to justice.

If this were true, the FBI wouldn’t have nearly as many success stories to entertain its Congressional oversight with. The FBI appears to be doing just fine, despite Wray’s protestations otherwise.

And he’s preaching to a choir that remains unconverted. The FBI has been complaining for the better part of a half-decade and it’s no closer to obtaining favorable legal precedent or encryption-breaking legislation than it was back then. The FBI’s directors have only one record. And it’s broken. Enjoy this supremely shitty tune you’ve all heard too many times before.

The FBI remains a strong advocate for the wide and consistent use of responsibly-managed encryption—encryption that providers can decrypt and provide to law enforcement when served with a legal order.

Ah, yes. “Responsibly-managed encryption.” Apparently allowing the government on-demand access through built-in flaws or storage of encryption keys where anyone — even criminals — can access them is more “responsible” than what’s being offered to the public now. The only acceptable encryption is broken encryption, according to the FBI. Backdoors, keys under the doormat, keys behind the counter at the front desk that can be obtained by request… all of these euphemisms fit the FBI’s encryption ideal, which is obviously far from ideal and anything but a net gain for public safety.

Chris Wray refuses to move past the “denial” stage of his self-inflicted grief.

What we mean when we talk about lawful access is putting providers who manage encrypted data in a position to decrypt it and provide it to us in response to the legal process. We are not asking for, and do not want, any “backdoor,” that is, for encryption to be weakened or compromised so that it can be defeated from the outside by law enforcement or anyone else.

It’s a backdoor. Providers holding keys presents an opening for others… you know, “law enforcement or anyone else.” It may present itself as a front door with a doorman willing to oblige visiting cops, but it’s still an entrance that isn’t there presently, when providers allow users to hold their own encryption keys. To meet Wray halfway, it’s a door. But it’s a door whose presence exists solely because law enforcement desires it and which will present an enticing target for enterprising cybercriminals and state-sponsored hackers.

As I was saying, Chris Wray can fuck right off.

Unfortunately, too much of the debate over lawful access has revolved around discussions of this “backdoor” straw man instead of what we really want and need.

Hey, it’s your straw man, dude. While other people present the facts — that encryption cannot be “safely” broken — Wray and his DOJ/FBI ilk continue to insist this common sense response is nothing more than a straw man offered up by people arguing in bad faith.

But it’s the FBI that’s been arguing in bad faith for years. It also insists encryption is zero sum: either law enforcement has access or the criminals win. This willfully ignores the FBI’s numerous options for obtaining communications and data that do not require forcing its way through the front of someone’s seized phone. And since the FBI won’t be honest about the extent of the problem it claims it faces — i.e., not updating the number of locked devices in its possession for more than THREE YEARS — no one should feel obliged to meet it halfway, much less engage in an “adult conversation” with a bunch of children who have misrepresented the facts for years.

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Comments on “FBI Director Ignores More Than 500 Ongoing Capitol Raid Prosecutions To Complain That Encryption Is Keeping Criminals From Being Caught”

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23 Comments
PaulT (profile) says:

"And it has obtained all sorts of evidence to use against more than 500 defendants in the January 6th Capitol raid cases"

To be fair, a lot of that has come from them either live-streaming their crimes as they happened, or being such insufferable assholes IRL that they get turned in by anyone from childhood acquaintances to potential dates. If all crimes were that easy to solve, the FBI would be asking for less data to sift through, not more.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: "To Serve and Protect"

But that isn’t their job. SCOTUS rulings aside, Comey changed the mission of the FBI from law enforcement to national security. Though like the rest of law enforcement in the US it seems to have taken on mass confiscation since that is more profitable than actually trying to serve a public purpose.

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Upstream (profile) says:

Our real challenge

I, and a great many others, can easily recognize, and ignore, the Alice in Wonderland contradictions of Chris Wray for the nonsensical rantings of a power-hungry, police state authoritarian that they are. Our real challenge is getting Congress, the Courts, and Joe "Executive Order" Biden / Kamala "Dictator in Waiting" Harris (and whoever may come after them) to do the same.

Anonymous Coward says:

i dont understand why people cant or wont see what’s right in front of them? governments and security forces everywhere are going down the same roads, or so it appears. anything that can be done to remove any and all freedom and privacy from the ordinary people is being done! at the same time, anything and everything that can be done to preserve the freedom and (more importantly!) the privacy of the rich, the famous and all their friends is also being done! the planet is fast becoming the dream of dictators, of police states and anything else that turns the whole planet into one of the elite enslaving the rest of us! going back to the days of the Roman Empire etc is not what being born is all about! being forced to do what those elite, those security services and those governments is not what it’s all about either. we are all here together, to benefit and for the benefit of all, not just so a few can gain while the rest of us loses. wars have been fought over this attitude and it’s disgraceful. we never seem to learn!

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"going back to the days of the Roman Empire etc is not what being born is all about!"

Unless you are an american in which case you were probably born into the last days of the ailing Roman Republic v2.0.

"i dont understand why people cant or wont see what’s right in front of them?"

Because people will blindly believe either what they fear is true or what they want to be true. The US is, to large extent, stuck in the early 1900’s as far as the general state of education, social infrastructure, healthcare availability and political hierarchy is concerned. With the major urban areas often standing out as isolated exceptions to a nation where for many generations now, a lot of children were left behind.

In a country where, according to the NCES, roughly 1 in 6 (17%) of adults are barely literate or functionally illiterate; and another 31% barely hit literacy level 2; you can not expect the population as a whole, to be capable of learning much of anything.

So the answer to your question is that more than half the population can’t see what’s in front of them or even understand what they’re seeing. And then their friend at the bar, their preacher, or their crazy uncle, tells them all about how the liberal devils are going to sell their children to the kenyan muslim through some pizza parlor, using hunter bidens laptop, and burn down their house with those jewish space lasers.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

'They keep refusing to accept my lying, it's not fair.'

The proliferation of end-to-end and user-only-access encryption is a serious issue that increasingly limits law enforcement’s ability, even after obtaining a lawful warrant or court order, to access critical evidence and information needed to disrupt threats, protect the public, and bring perpetrators to justice.

Great, then stop trying to make the public less safe by demanding that encryption be crippled and lying about it.

For someone who claims that he just wants to better protect the public he is advocate number one for the interests in criminals worldwide, who would absolutely love it if every encryption system came pre-broken and with a known key.

Unfortunately, too much of the debate over lawful access has revolved around discussions of this “backdoor” straw man instead of what we really want and need.

Tech companies and people calling you out on your lying aren’t attacking strawmen, they’re attacking the actual goal of broken encryption with a built-in backdoor that you’re too dishonest to admit to, and refusing to let you dictate how the discussion will be framed in your favor. Don’t like it then stop lying and attempting to undermine public safety and security.

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

What we mean when we talk about lawful access is putting providers who manage encrypted data in a position to decrypt it and provide it to us in response to the legal process.

So go ahead. The user is the one who manages encrypted data. Says so on the package: "End to End". The company only ever transfers data, not ‘encrypted data’. The fact that the company never looks at the data is beside the point.

ECA (profile) says:

I wonder

How many of those phones are Throw away?
Hard to prove who they belong to.
Cash on demand phones.
Find them everywhere, and they get cheaper as they get older.
Which is funny, as a $200, 5 years ago, is now $50.
Considering cellphones base operating system is Linux, haking into it isnt to hard. The App’s being USED, can have other protections. As they have figured out with Their own chat program.
Does the FBI think there is a group making the Chat/msg programs JUST for the crooks? How much are they charging for that?

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Uriel-238 (profile) says:

I'm reminded of the Portland abductions by LGM

Although most of the victims of the DHS who were abducted without due process were typically released after a few hours, their phones were confiscated and kept, and lawyers are to this day trying to get them back.

So when the FBI holds up phones they allegedly need to get into, what I see (until demonstrated otherwise) are the confiscated devices of innocent Americans whose property continues to be held by a government agency that has no established cause or need to search these phones.

What trustworthy institution do we have to review these phones and their possession by the federal government and their rightful owners? Until this, and every part of the DHS and national security sector can actually demonstrate it serves a public serving purpose, I hope it not only goes dark for them, but it all falls into a singularity they can never reach.

I have not one cause to have respect for the FBI.

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