Former Presidential Cybersecurity 'Czar' Slams DOJ/FBI For Its Position On Apple Encryption

from the speak-louder dept

For many years, if you mentioned the term "cybersecurity czar" in the federal government, it only meant Richard Clarke. He was one of the earliest people to focus on computer security as an issue, and as such, became an advisor to multiple presidents on the issue. I haven't always agreed with him -- there have been points in the past where he's appeared as a leading voice in support of greater surveillance and exaggerated claims about a coming "cyberwar". However, in the past few years, Clarke has become much better on these issues, warning (just prior to Snowden's revelations) that the US's focus on surveillance has actually made the public less safe by leaving vulnerabilities open, rather than closing them.

And now he's weighed in, quite vocally, on the whole Apple v. the FBI thing, strongly in support of Apple. To some extent, this isn't a huge surprise as he was among a large group of smart folks who signed onto a letter a year ago opposing encryption backdoors, but his NPR interview gave him a chance to be quite explicit in just how dumb the FBI/DOJ's requests are. It's worth listening to the whole thing, or at least reading the transcript, but here are a few key highlights. Specifically, he argues that the FBI is lying in saying that it can't get access to the content on the phone, and just wants to set a precedent:
If I were in the job now, I would have simply told the FBI to call Fort Meade, the headquarters of the National Security Agency, and NSA would have solved this problem for them. They're not as interested in solving the problem as they are in getting a legal precedent.... Every expert I know believes that NSA could crack this phone. They want the precedent that the government can compel a computer device manufacturer to allow the government in.
Earlier in the interview, he totally dismisses the idea that there's a big dispute in the administration about this, saying that it's just the FBI and DOJ exaggerating:
Well, I don't think it's a fierce debate. I think the Justice Department and the FBI are on their own here. You know, the secretary of defense has said how important encryption is when asked about this case. The National Security Agency director and three past National Security Agency directors, a former CIA director, a former Homeland Security secretary have all said that they're much more sympathetic with Apple in this case. You really have to understand that the FBI director is exaggerating the need for this and is trying to build it up as an emotional case, organizing the families of the victims and all of that. And it's Jim Comey and the attorney general is letting him get away with it.
It's good to see more officials speaking out and calling bullshit on the FBI/DOJ claims on all of this.

Filed Under: all writs act, cybersecurity, doj, encryption, fbi, iphone, nsa, precedent, richard clarke
Companies: apple


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Mar 2016 @ 4:04pm

    That's been pretty much a given all along here at TechDirt. But when you go to look at the MSM sources all toting water for the DOJ/FBI you have to realize this is where the majority of Americans get their news from and it exposes a practice that is not so pretty.

    In the lover's embrace of government and corporation, fascism is growing ever more acceptable to those in power.

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

  • identicon
    Doug Coulter, 17 Mar 2016 @ 4:52pm

    Multiple-think

    Perhaps the FBI is getting tired of the risks of losing their "boy scout" status via getting caught at "parallel construction" and is only in it for the precedent.

    Already being able to crack the phone - so people think they are safe from them when they're not...

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

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 17 Mar 2016 @ 10:13pm

    TPMs were proven crackable in a 2010 whitepaper.

    So it's been really hard to believe that the FBI can't open one up in 2016.

    And that would be all that's necessary to create an engine to decrypt the Farook iPhone.

    (Though if he has a 9-digit PIN it might take years.)

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

  • icon
    Steve R. (profile), 18 Mar 2016 @ 5:53am

    Fox News Continues its nonsensical "Lets Break Encryption" Tirade

    This morning, on Fox Business News; the mindless tirade to "break" iPhone encryption continues as necessary action to assist law enforcement in getting those pedophiles. Furthermore, that Apple has blood on its hand for not assisting law enforcement.

    Essentially missing, though there were some brief nods in that direction, was that if law enforcement can break encryption, so can the hackers. So if the hackers steal sensitive information and do national security damage, will the FOX News pundits turn around and claim that Apple has been negligent in protecting national security and once again accuse Apple of having blood on its hands?

    The hysterical media outrage generated by this one iPhone, clearly points to an attempt to manipulate public opinion in go along with making life easier for law enforcement in the name of security. "They're not as interested in solving the problem as they are in getting a legal precedent...". Very Orwellian.

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

  • identicon
    jim, 18 Mar 2016 @ 6:10am

    no!

    I agree with all here. But, remember, to use the information found on the phone, legally, in a court, it has to be obtained correctly. That's why we have wiretap laws. That's why search and seizure laws. They just cannot Willy nilly hunt, they have to prove it's not a plant of information and here is where it was found.
    Here is what I believe, Apple cannot do the decryption. They fired the wrong person who was able to do it.
    And the FBI is trying to get access to old backups, why? They tainted the information on the phone.they lost custody, when the county reset the phone. So, what was planted on the phone? Nothing, but prove it. You have to lose custody to prove it. Interesting conundrum.

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

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 18 Mar 2016 @ 7:25am

      Re: no!

      The ability to use whatever is on the phone in a court of law is irrelevant to the particular case with Apple. The perpetrators are dead. There is no court case to use any evidence in.

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


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