Sen. Grassley Asks DOJ To Get Back To Pushing James Comey's Mandatory Encryption Backdoors Plan

from the damn-this-administration's-showy-shrugs-over-encryption! dept

It's hard to figure out just where Sen. Charles Grassley stands in terms of his assessment of the FBI's trustworthiness. Grassley demanded the FBI answer questions on its presumably warrantless use of Stingray devices. He also called it out for refusing to update Congress on the status of its investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails.

But now that the debate over encryption and "going dark" seems to have come to a halt, Grassley is now encouraging the DOJ to take up FBI Director James Comey's lead and find a legislative "solution" to the supposed encryption problem.

FBI Director James Comey appears to have conceded defeat when it comes to legislation to require communications companies to make encrypted communications available to law enforcement on the basis of a search warrant. But Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley is not having it.

"I believe that the administration should use every lawful tool at its disposal and vigorously investigate each and every potential solution to this serious problem," wrote Grassley, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in an Oct. 8 letter to Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates.
The letter points to some recent press coverage that suggests the administration has walked away from seeking mandatory backdoors to the encryption provided by Apple and Google. Apparently, a few "technically feasible solutions" have been put together by a "working group" but have not been discussed or otherwise made public. Grassley wants to know what these are and why the DOJ isn't pursuing these options.
I believe that the Administration should use every lawful tool at its disposal and vigorously investigate each and every potential solution to this serious problem, as your testimony before the Committee implied it would.
Grassley then goes on to cite efforts being made by the UK and France, as if the broad wording and overreach of their anti-terrorism proposals were something to be admired and emulated.
Moreover, countries like Great Britain and France are much further along in their national dialogues on how best to balance privacy and public safety with regard to and are currently contemplating specific legislative proposals to address the threat posed by widespread inviolable encryption.
Yes, but the "national dialogue" these countries are engaging in only includes pro-surveillance administrations and the intelligence agencies that stand to benefit from expanded powers and the increased budgets that come with them. The other stakeholders -- the citizens of these countries -- have been cut out of the discussion. Even in Comey's own words, the "threat" posed seems manageable ("dozens") and other evidence out there suggests encryption is rarely a problem for law enforcement or intelligence agencies, who have other ways of obtaining data and communications that do not require attacking encryption head-on.

Grassley appears to believe a legislative solution is the best approach. While this administration has demurred, another administration is on its way in little more than a year -- one that could take advantage of Congressional majorities to push through mandated encryption backdoors.

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Filed Under: backdoors, chuck grassley, doj, encryption, fbi, going dark, james comey


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  • icon
    Violynne (profile), 15 Oct 2015 @ 10:40am

    "I believe that the administration should use every lawful tool at its disposal and vigorously investigate each and every potential solution to this serious problem," wrote Grassley.

    Waste of taxpayer dollars. The DoJ has been told many times what the solution is, but they seem to be tone deaf to the answer.

    I'll repeat it here, on the chance Grassley reads the site: The solution to back door encryption is to keep the fucking door closed.

    The solution provided at no expense to the taxpayers.

    You're welcome.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2015 @ 10:49am

    Just because you make a law about it, doesn't mean it's any more secured. You can't make a law about the skies being red and expect it to change because you don't like the color.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2015 @ 10:53am

    Actually this seems like the old adage "Cutting off your nose to spite your face."

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2015 @ 10:53am

    Add this guy to the Idiot Brigade list.

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

  • identicon
    Whoever, 15 Oct 2015 @ 10:54am

    Does anyone remember that some states passed laws ...

    that defined Pi as exactly 3 or some other rational number.

    This is no different. It is an attempt to legislate a mathematical impossibility.

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

  • icon
    TheResidentSkeptic (profile), 15 Oct 2015 @ 11:01am

    Stop using encryption.

    No Sir, we no longer use encryption, so you don't need a backdoor.

    We just use obfuscation in the form of a mathematical formula applied to the data to enhance its opaque characteristics during traversal of the internet backbone and last-mile carrier routes for the safety of our users binary encoded traffic.

    "Oh, Okay"

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

  • identicon
    Capt ICE Enforcer, 15 Oct 2015 @ 11:19am

    Thirsty

    Well, I now know which senator likes to drink the Kool-aid. Have another sip.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2015 @ 11:31am

    wouldnt breaking encryption, without a law making it legal, technically be a crime under the CFAA?

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

  • identicon
    David, 15 Oct 2015 @ 11:38am

    If US encryption has back doors...

    Then only US people will (be forced to) use that encryption. Others, like terrorists, will continue to use illegal but non-backdoored encryption.

    Additionally, no other country will purchase any US compliant security/encryption enabled equipment (Cisco, Microsoft, Apple, etc) due to the US having the backdoor to all their data.

    So let's just bring it on and kill the US tech industry. You're worried about tech jobs moving overseas? That will do it.

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

  • icon
    Peter (profile), 15 Oct 2015 @ 12:01pm

    Successess?

    Not just the intelligence agencies, all Law enforcement agencies have been given unprecedented powers over the last decade. They can track and listen like never before, they can confiscate and raid without even a warrant in many cases, and even tend to get away unscarred if they 'accidentally' kill someone. If they set their mind to take someone out of circulation, there are very few legal hurdles left to protect the suspect.

    How have these powers affected crime rates?

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

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 15 Oct 2015 @ 1:25pm

      Re: Successess?

      They're down. The only crimes that are up are the artificial ones meant to fill the private-run prisons... the War of Drugs, the War on Terror, etc.

      But the rates are down DESPITE the excesses of LEO, not because of them.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2015 @ 12:11pm

    "the threat posed by widespread inviolable encryption"

    This is what they fear; that people use their right to privacy to fight corrupt and unjust governments.

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

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 15 Oct 2015 @ 9:47pm

    Assley

    ...pretty much sums it up.

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

  • identicon
    DigDug, 15 Oct 2015 @ 11:25pm

    Do the world a favor

    Contact him. http://www.grassley.senate.gov/contact

    Enlighten him about this topic. Keep it calm, and accurate. You might be surprised.

    I used the DVD / BluRay encryption wars as a solid example of the uselessness of encryption with predefined decryption keys or with a master key by which all other keys are generated and files decrypted.

    Every time they (the MPAA) modify the encryption of their movies, it's only a matter of days or even hours before it's broken and openly available for decryption.

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


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