DHS Opening Office In Silicon Valley To More Efficiently Complain To Tech Companies About Encryption

from the we-have-no-solutions-but-we-do-have-plenty-of-talking-points! dept

If only the endlessly-escalating West Coast cost of living could have prevented this:

Today I am pleased to announce that the Department of Homeland Security is also finalizing plans to open up a satellite office in Silicon Valley, to serve as another point of contact with our friends here. We want to strengthen critical relationships in Silicon Valley and ensure that the government and the private sector benefit from each other’s research and development.
That's Jeh Johnson addressing the crowd at the RSA Conference. Of all the news no one wanted to hear, this has to be close to the top of the list. Three-lettered government agencies are pretty much NIMBY as far as the tech world is concerned, especially after Snowden's revelations have seriously and swiftly eroded trust in the government.
No one wants a next-door neighbor who's going to constantly be dropping by for a cup of decryption.

The current course we are on, toward deeper and deeper encryption in response to the demands of the marketplace, is one that presents real challenges for those in law enforcement and national security.

Let me be clear: I understand the importance of what encryption brings to privacy. But, imagine the problems if, well after the advent of the telephone, the warrant authority of the government to investigate crime had extended only to the U.S. mail.

Our inability to access encrypted information poses public safety challenges. In fact, encryption is making it harder for your government to find criminal activity, and potential terrorist activity.

We in government know that a solution to this dilemma must take full account of the privacy rights and expectations of the American public, the state of the technology, and the cybersecurity of American businesses.

We need your help to find the solution.
"Let me be clear: I understand the importance of what doors bring to privacy. But, imagine the problems if, well after humanity moved out of caves, the warrant authority of the government to investigate crime had only extended to dwellings without doors."

Bullshit. The DHS, along with other law enforcement agencies -- is seeking is the path of least resistance. It can get warrants to search encrypted devices. It just may not be able to immediately crack them open and feast on the innards. It may also get court orders to compel decryption. This is far less assured and risks dragging the Fifth Amendment down to the Fourth's level, but it's still an option.

Then there's the option of subpoenaing third parties, like cloud storage services, to find the content that can't be accessed on the phone. So, it's not as though it's locked out forever. This may happen occasionally but it won't suddenly turn law enforcement into a wholly futile pursuit.

Silicon Valley isn't going to help the DHS "find a solution." There isn't one. The DHS may as well get some legislation going and force companies to provide a stupid "good guys only" backdoor because the tech world already knows you can't keep bad guys out with broken encryption. This should be painfully obvious and yet, the "good guy" agencies seem to think tech companies are just holding out on them.

From there, Johnson switches to his most disingenuous rhetorical device: the assertion that Americans are clamoring for an unrealistic level of safety.
I tell audiences that I can build you a perfectly safe city on a hill, but it will constitute a prison.
Who the fuck is asking you to do that? The only people pushing for "perfectly safe" are government agencies who like big budgets and increased power and the private companies that profit from this sort of fearmongering. Most Americans are far more pragmatic and they'd rather keep what's left of their privacy and civil liberties, even if it means the safety of the country is slightly less assured.

And this makes me want to vomit with contempt:
In the name of homeland security, we can build more walls, erect more screening devices, interrogate more people, and make everybody suspicious of each other, but we should not do this at the cost of who we are as a nation of people who cherish privacy and freedom to travel, celebrate our diversity, and who are not afraid.
THAT IS LITERALLY ALL YOU HAVE DONE SINCE 2001.

In the name of "homeland security," we have TSA agents groping people, breaking their luggage, humiliating people with medical issues and stealing personal belongings -- all without ever having prevented a single attempted hijacking or bombing. In the name of "national security," we have indulged every nosy do-gooder with numerous hotlines to report their neighbors' ownership of luggage or cameras or pressure cookers. In the name of the "war on terror," we have a 100-mile buffer zone around the nation's borders that nearly completely eliminates every Constitutional protection.

Jeh Johnson hasn't been in the position long, but he's already descended into inadvertent self-parody. This speech was apparently delivered with complete sincerity, which means Johnson has no idea how his agency is perceived. There are very few people who believe the DHS is some sort of civil liberties champion. Jeh Johnson is obviously one of them.


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  • identicon
    Baron von Robber, 24 Apr 2015 @ 1:55pm

    Remember that kid in high school you tried to avoid like the plague because they were annoying and always had bad ideas? Then you discovered they were moving in right next door!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 26 Apr 2015 @ 11:47am

      Re:

      ... and they've managed to grow up into adulthood, they're a stumbling, drunken alcoholic, and they're a gun nut. I doubt you're going to want to live there any more, but good luck finding anyone to buy your house once prospective buyers see who'll be living next door.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2015 @ 1:59pm

    Their Current Batch

    This is one hell of a statement regarding 'Beltway Bandit' software makers. Is he telling those stellar entities that they should no longer submit for software contracts? After all, their track record isn't very good, and man are they expensive.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Guardian, 24 Apr 2015 @ 2:04pm

    Hail hitler!!!

    this is what yo umust say as they move the tnaks in er cars er whatever

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    James Burkhardt (profile), 24 Apr 2015 @ 2:14pm

    Alright, ive gone back link to link, article to article through the archive looking for the answer to one question: has the Supreme Court ruled on the "100-mile constitution free zone"? Has it even been instituted to the degree suggested? I can find links appellate court rulings vacating the 4th amendment AT the border. I can find other links to rulings which claim that 100 miles is the defined 'reasonable distance' from the border in which you can search a vehicle for aliens. However, I can find no article which claims that these two rules combine to allow seizure personal belongings 100 miles from the border. I can see how it could be ruled this way, but has this legal theory ever been tested (IE has the border patrol actually tried it)?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2015 @ 3:32pm

      Re:

      ... to allow seizure personal belongings 100 miles from the border.
      You seem to be suggesting that the government may search a vehicle without having stopped it?

      So the vehicle is driving down the freeway, and the officers are trucking right along with it, searching away... do they use skateboards to keep up with it, or something? Rocket-propelled hover-skateboards, I suppose.

      'Cause, you know, a stop would be a seizure.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        James Burkhardt (profile), 24 Apr 2015 @ 4:02pm

        Re: Re:

        Actually, that would be the seizure of a person, not personal belongings. Technically at that point only you enter custody. And being obtuse does not detract from my argument. Some district courts (not the SC) have rlued police have the right to stop anyone within 100 miles of the border to search the vehicle for aliens. But does that stop also grant the ability to confiscate anything they want as when you are searched at the border?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2015 @ 4:12pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          ... that would be the seizure of a person, not personal belongings...
          Oh, I understand now!

          The people stop. But the car keeps driving down the road.

          I feel like an idiot now. Why didn't I see that before? It makes so much sense. The car keeps driving down the road. Along with all the belongings inside. Only the people stop.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2015 @ 6:24pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            I guess you missed the news sometime back. Look for it here at Techdirt. They now have mobile scanners, akin to those at the airport, allowing a check of the insides of vehicles without those vehicles having to stop. You can be searched while you are moving in a vehicle and be completely unaware of it. That doesn't mean it didn't happen.

            From the shear bulk of traffic you don't have to guess that no one decided to get a warrant for each and every vehicle that passed through.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2015 @ 4:24pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Technically at that point...
          Technically at that point, Terry v Ohio (1968) establishes a seizure within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment.
          Our first task is to establish at what point in this encounter the Fourth Amendment becomes relevant. That is, we must decide whether and when Officer McFadden "seized" Terry and whether and when he conducted a "search." . . . It must be recognized that whenever a police officer accosts an individual and restrains his freedom to walk away, he has "seized" that person.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            James Burkhardt (profile), 24 Apr 2015 @ 5:55pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Exactly. He has committed seizure of that person. which is what i said happened. You seem to be arguing against yourself here.
            Let me change my wording again, so your trollish pedantry can not get in the way of my question. Has the go ahead to search a vehicle within 100 miles of the border to determine the presence, or lack thereof, of aliens been interpreted to allow the collection of possessions, papers, and/or electronic devices unrelated to the presence, or lack thereof, of aliens? By interpreted I mean has this been attempted by border patrol. I am asking because after much investigation into previous tech dirt posts on this topic, I can't find the case where these two rulings have actually been conflated to create the hypotetical 100-mile constitution free zone.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2015 @ 6:49pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              ... your trollish pedantry...
              Dude.

              Why don't you try reading the ACLU's explanation of the problem.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 25 Apr 2015 @ 10:45am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              If you are asking if they are actually doing this, the answer is yes. I have witnessed it myself - CBP checkpoints on inbound highways that are nowhere near the border.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 25 Apr 2015 @ 12:41pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                If you are asking if they are actually doing this...
                I don't think the guy's asking an honest question. He sounds to me like he waltzed in here with an axe to grind.

                In essence, he's attempting to draw a distinction closely related to the one that the California Supreme Court attempted in Breindlin (2007). In that case, California argued that stopping a car doesn't amount to seizing the passengers. According to the U.S. Supreme Court, the California Supremes felt that—
                 . . . a passenger "is not seized as a constitutional matter in the absence of additional circumstances that would indicate to a reasonable person that he or she was the subject of the peace officer's investigation or show of authority." The court reasoned that Brendlin was not seized by the traffic stop because Simeroth was its exclusive target, that a passenger cannot submit to an officer's show of authority while the driver controls the car, and that once a car has been pulled off the road, a passenger "would feel free to depart or otherwise to conduct his or her affairs as though the police were not present."
                The California Supremes, of course, were reversed on that.

                This poster's argument seems to be that when the U.S. Supreme Court authorized the operation of fixed checkpoints in Martinez-Fuerte (1976), the Supreme Court did not authorize any meaningful interference with possessory interests in personal property. That is, a checkpoint which stops a car doesn't actually require the car to change its trajectory.

                In short, he supposes that seizing a person doesn't amount to a seizure of the clothes that the person's wearing.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 25 Apr 2015 @ 6:08pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  Please answer me this, why should my family be stopped and questioned by CBP when we have not left our own state much less the country?

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Agonistes, 24 Apr 2015 @ 2:21pm

    I love a good article a lot more with swearing added.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2015 @ 2:27pm

    Now I am totally amazed at how law enforcement managed to operate before the days of computers. To hear present law enforcement, it can't be done. Present law enforcement wants to require everything be open to them all the time every where.

    So how did the American citizen live without a computer that didn't open their lives up to minute inspection in the past? It is strongly evident that law enforcement today doesn't mind ignoring the US Constitution. Passing laws, especially secret laws, does not make them legal, any more than the local politician with a case of the ass against, baggy trousers making a law against them not because they are some sort of dress code violation but because they are baggy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Joel Coehoorn, 24 Apr 2015 @ 2:33pm

    Warrants are Fine

    ... imagine the problems if, well after the advent of the telephone, the warrant authority of the government to investigate crime had extended only to the U.S. mail.

    Warrants are fine. No one has a problem with them. But here's what the warrant process looks like: an investigator goes to a judge and gets approval, and then serves the warrant for the single device or account in question directly to the owner of that device or account being investigated.

    What the government is asking for here goes well beyond warrants, and makes Americans question whether or not we really are still "secure in our ... papers and effects."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2015 @ 5:44pm

      Re: Warrants are Fine

      This exactly. They have had unfettered access to everyone's personal documents and emails and are dreading the day they have to go back to using warrants to get that access. Anyone who talks like this guy should be in prison, they are the real terrorists.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2015 @ 2:34pm

    have to spend all that bribe money on something, obviously not defending the country that would be a waste

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2015 @ 2:43pm

    they've only done this to cut down on phone and fuel bills!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    You are being watched (profile), 24 Apr 2015 @ 2:50pm

    But we are clamoring for safety

    It just confuses Jeh Johnson that we are clamoring for safety from the government so he's twisting it to something less confusing for him and going "THAT'S what the American people want! I get it now!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    agalvan (profile), 24 Apr 2015 @ 3:26pm

    Useless conversation

    The government asking a few companies to implement backdoors in the devices they make and sell will not change the fact that just about anyone can build a fully encrypted device and have fully encrypted conversations using said device.
    That is the world we live in.
    The conversation between Silicon Valley fighting for the fourth ammendment and the government fighting for backdoors is a waste of time in the world we live in today.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Apr 2015 @ 9:52am

      Re: Useless conversation

      "the fact that just about anyone can build a fully encrypted device and have fully encrypted conversations using said device."

      Not a fact. Many if not most people do not have that kind of ability ability and security should not be limited to those who do.
      Try again.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DB (profile), 24 Apr 2015 @ 3:36pm

    Silicon valley will help DHS search for a solution. All that it takes is money and they'll find plenty of companies willing to search.

    Most of them will be either branches of traditional "beltway bandits", and small companies that are quickly bought up by the same. The only innovation will be in how creatively the proposals are written.

    Because dealing with the government requires a specialized approach. One that doesn't put progress above correctly submitting paperwork and fulfilling contract requirements precisely.

    What they won't get is easy access to the largest companies -- the ones they want to influence. It's fine for a company like RSA to get a bad reputation for putting backdoors into their products. It would be a disaster for Google, Facebook, Apple, Yahoo!, etc.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2015 @ 3:51pm

    collect it all, let God sort it out

    The DHS needs encryption backdoors because this is how they are going to catch the next Al Kaida terrorist plot. But because every one of us might be a terrorist-in-hiding, the Feds need to be able to see everything that all of us do, all the time.

    With the overseas wars winding down, the military-industrial-security complex will be desperate to find a new gravy train, and that gravy train will be domestic security. As with the NSA, private for-profit corporations will be granted lucrative contracts to assist the DHS in its domestic spy operations, and will naturally be lobbying hard to make sure that this "war on terror" never ends.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Zonker, 24 Apr 2015 @ 4:08pm

    In fact, encryption is making it harder for your government to find criminal activity, and potential terrorist activity.
    The government's job is not to "find criminal activity". The people report crime to law enforcement, and then law enforcement investigates and prosecutes the crimes reported. We the people, collectively, are supposed to be the ones who determine what is or isn't criminal activity. Our representatives in government are supposed to codify what we the people, collectively, say should be lawful or unlawful conduct. In court, a jury of our peers are the ones who are supposed to indict and decide whether the accused have broken our laws and deserve to face the consequences. We the people are the ones who are supposed to determine the consequences for breaking our laws.

    The government is supposed to respond to the will of the people, not control the people by exerting it's own will upon us.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Joe K, 24 Apr 2015 @ 4:29pm

    ...who needs enemies?

    Today I am pleased to announce that the Department of Homeland Security is also finalizing plans to open up a satellite office in Silicon Valley, to serve as another point of contact with our friends here.


    Creepy. As. Fuck.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2015 @ 4:47pm

      Re: ...who needs enemies?

      agree. you can almost picture the creepy smile at the end of that statement as the Silicon valley execs are marched in under guard.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Apr 2015 @ 12:56am

      Re: ...who needs enemies?

      You know what they say: "Keep your friends close and your ENEMIES even closer."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 24 Apr 2015 @ 4:45pm

    I 'n I du nah tink dis Jeh ah irie.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Apr 2015 @ 11:12pm

    I would like to live in a community where I don't get particle beam weaponed to death. Right now, people are trying to particle beam weapon me to death. I believe DHS does have a role in our society.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Apr 2015 @ 7:27am

    Perhaps the best place for him to spend some time is in Silicon Valley where there are plenty of people who actually understand how all this works can educate him.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Apr 2015 @ 12:05pm

    They complain about everything they don't control.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Apr 2015 @ 9:56am

    I cant help but think

    We're watching you

    Watch your step

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Apr 2015 @ 9:57am

      Re:

      We're just around the corner now

      We're not just a percieved pressence, we're a visual/actual pressence, im waving at you through the window presence

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    tqk (profile), 26 Apr 2015 @ 11:37am

    There goes the neighborhood. :-P

    Then there's the option of subpoenaing third parties, like cloud storage services, to find the content that can't be accessed on the phone.

    They can even get a gag order on said third parties to keep you from finding out that you're being spied upon. Feature!

    I can think of one good thing wrt the DHS opening an office in CA. It could create a new enjoyable hobby for Californians. "Hey everybody, I'm going dumpster diving at the new DHS office. Anyone want to join me?"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Apr 2015 @ 4:57am

    Aww, it's just like having your state security advisor in every room.

    Silicon valley is our friend, and friends let each other look into their development and production environment.

    Or else we wouldn't be friends anymore, and that would be sad...for you.


    Everybody could build fully encrypted systems, until those get made illegal and possessing one or knowing how to build one is forbidden.
    Nobody should have encryption, except your lovely authorities and their friends who absolutely pose no threat or risk to anyone.


    100 mile constitution free zone, does this only include land borders? I mean the coast can be a border too. Even if you include border to international waters.
    And the internet is the border to the digital age.
    So hand over your servers for customs inspections.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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