White House Apparently Not Necessarily In Agreement With FBI's Position On Encryption Backdoors

from the say-something-dammit dept

There is a (reasonable) tendency to argue that in this big fight over encryption backdoors and "going dark" and "should Apple help the FBI" to assume that the various DOJ/FBI efforts to force backdoors into encryption are the official position of the Obama administration. After all, the Justice Department is a part of the administration and the head of the DOJ, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, reports to President Obama. And the FBI is a part of the DOJ. But it's also been quite clear for some time that there are a variety of opinions within the White House on these issues, with many outside of the DOJ not supporting backdooring encryption at all. In fact, many are actively opposed to such ideas. And now it's reaching the stage where people are starting to push stories that the White House is not at all happy with FBI Director James Comey and his crusade on this issue.
With regards to the Apple standoff, "It's just not clear [Comey] is speaking for the administration," said Richard Clarke, a former White House counterterrorism and cybersecurity chief. "We know there have been administration meetings on this for months. The proposal that Comey had made on encryption was rejected by the administration."


"I have been very surprised at how public and inflammatory, frankly, the FBI and the Justice Department’s approach has been on this," said Chris Finan, a former National Security Council cybersecurity adviser.

"That doesn't tend to be the administration’s preferred approach to handling things."
There are a lot more quotes in the article suggesting similar things (and also discussing FBI issues beyond just the Apple/encryption debate).

Indeed, back last fall, we noted that leaked documents showed that many in the White House did not agree with Comey or the FBI on this issue -- and some pushed for a public statement opposing backdooring encryption. Unfortunately, the administration later took the cowardly approach of agreeing not to push for legislation, but refusing to take a strong public stance on the issue, because they didn't want to anger the law enforcement community. So, instead, you have the DOJ and FBI -- representatives of the administration -- now running wild, pushing dangerous legal theories that will undermine key elements of computer security, and lots of people think that's the administration's official position.

The White House failed badly in not taking a public stance on this months ago, and it should fix that now.
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: backdoors, doj, encryption, fbi, james comey, loretta lynch, white house

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. icon
    Ninja (profile), 10 Mar 2016 @ 11:58am

    Re: Telling silence

    Deafening silence you mean. They cannot directly support it because they know it will backlash so they are letting lesser agencies take the beating while people get used with the idea. Sounds conspiracy enough to you?

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt

Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Discord

The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...

Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.