Despite Stream Of Leaks Exposing Tremendous Gov't Surveillance Capabilities, James Comey Still Complaining About 'Going Dark'

from the really-just-working-with-a-single-talking-point-these-days dept

Following the Shadow Brokers' partial dumping of NSA exploits, a new batch of CIA exploits has hit the web via Wikileaks. Contained inside both sets of leaks was information explaining why encryption isn't much of a problem for the intelligence community. The NSA has put plenty of time and money into breaking encryption, but much of its Tailored Access Operations -- much like the contents of the CIA dump -- involve access efforts that bypass encryption completely by making themselves at home on the targeted hardware/device.

Despite these leaks, FBI Director James Comey is still insisting encryption is a problem. In his recent appearance at Boston College's cybersecurity conference, Comey had this to say:

[C]omey said that he a fan of "strong encryption" but noted that "it is making more and more of the room of what the FBI investigates dark."

Between September and November, the FBI received 2,800 devices it had lawful authority to open but could not open 1,200 of them "with any technique," he said.

Comey (again) called for "balance," a term he never bothers to define, but hints heavily at private companies being made to play by his rules, rather than offering any form of compromise from his end.

And it's partially true: devices seized after an arrest can't be forced open by exploits. The exploits need to be present on the devices first. But investigations always precede arrests. At this point, efforts can be made to target known devices to provide access during the investigation and prevent them from being locked up once they're seized. The legal framework, unfortunately, doesn't really exist at this point, but a lack of specific permission has never stopped the FBI from acting first and litigating later.

The FBI also has expanded access to the NSA's full-take surveillance programs, thanks to the recent lifting of restrictions. Nearly every phone utilizes the internet in some way, which would expose data and communications to the NSA's taps. This won't capture everything stored on devices, but it's far more info than the FBI would have otherwise. Comey's repeated complaints about "going dark" make less and less sense every time a new surveillance secret leaks.

Every new surveillance leak points to another disturbing fact: the FBI's promises of security and safety -- in reference to courtroom requests for "technical assistance" from device manufacturers -- are bullshit. If the NSA and CIA can't keep their exploits out of the public's hands, there's zero chance the FBI would somehow keep leakers and/or criminals from obtaining its cell phone-cracking secrets. The only balance that can be achieved by undermining device encryption is one where everyone loses.


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2017 @ 1:16pm

    To him the problem is "widespread default encryption". Known to most of us simply as security.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2017 @ 3:15pm

      What's the root problem?

      ....relax, here's the solemn oath of office that Comey swore to:

      " I {name} do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God. "


      Comey will therefore defend the 4th Amendment at all costs.

      Whatsamatter -- don't you guys trust your government officials ??

      (if U don't trust your government-- what is your solution ??)

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2017 @ 4:46pm

        Re: What's the root problem?

        if U don't trust your government-- what is your solution ??

        Evidence to date is that "draining the swamp" isn't the answer either. Or, not in it's current form, at any rate.

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

        • identicon
          Mark, 9 Mar 2017 @ 6:43pm

          swamp draining

          I still think draining the swamp will work. I don't think we realized just how many nasty beasts lived in the swamp or how enormous in size it was.

          I thought the US Congress was the most shameful institution in America, boy was I wrong.

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

          • icon
            PaulT (profile), 10 Mar 2017 @ 1:30am

            Re: swamp draining

            When Trump said he wanted to drain the swamp, he wasn't lying. It's just that his supporters thought he was going to dispose of the debris found once he did that, not hire them.

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

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2017 @ 9:41pm

        Re: What's the root problem?

        The posts below brought to you by Michael Masnick, Inventor of TechDirt, the place good ideas go to get buried, anonymously and shamefully.

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

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 10 Mar 2017 @ 1:29am

          Re: Re: What's the root problem?

          Just one post lying about this site and failing to attack its host? What's the matter, did you wear out your keyboard talking to yourself in the other thread?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Mar 2017 @ 6:14am

      Re:

      Door locks are also the widespread default on new homes, making it more difficult to perform thing s like no-knock raids, secret searches and bug planting. Should door locks be outlawed?

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

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 10 Mar 2017 @ 6:24am

        Re: Re:

        If the analogy is to be extended - of course not! All they're asking for is that a door be installed at the back of the house that they can get through without needing a key. Only the "good guys" will know about the door so everyone's safe!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2017 @ 1:26pm

    The dark part of the world that he is really worried about are ls these leakers that get documents out before he can discover their intent.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2017 @ 1:41pm

    What does encryption have to do with gaining access to a locked device?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2017 @ 1:47pm

      Re:

      What does encryption have to do with gaining access to a locked device?

      Dumping the raw contents of the device is relatively straightforward. If the device is unencrypted, then dumping the raw contents is good enough to grant investigators access to the device's content (pictures, texts, e-mails, etc.), if any. If the device is encrypted, then dumping the raw contents only gives them the ciphered bytes, and they need to decrypt those bytes to continue. If the encryption is of good quality, decrypting the contents is hard, which is why Comey wants to mandate that everyone use bad encryption that can be easily broken by criminals (and also investigators).

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2017 @ 6:16pm

        Re: Re:

        *and also investigators*

        you already said *criminals*.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 10 Mar 2017 @ 7:48am

          Re: Re: Re:

          and also investigators

          you already said criminals.

          Not all investigators are criminals. Most believe they are acting under lawful authority, and some are even acting under authority of a constitutionally valid law (valid warrant, obtained from true evidence presented in a fair light to a neutral judge, etc.). The problem is the near total lack of accountability for investigators who act outside that regime:

          • Judge shopping until they find a judge who does not care about the deficiencies in the warrant application
          • Submitting misleading applications (i.e. pen register application to justify a stingray)
            • Submitting applications based on information the investigator reasonably should know is insufficient or unreliable, but structuring the application to read as if the information is both sufficient and perfectly reliable ("anonymous tips" and criminal informants)
          • Exceeding the scope of the approved warrant
          • Acting with neither a warrant nor a judicially pre-approved reason for warrantless action (exigent circumstances, etc.)

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

  • identicon
    Jason, 9 Mar 2017 @ 1:59pm

    the real problem here?

    But investigations always precede arrests.

    FBI: "We're working on that."

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

  • identicon
    Zem, 9 Mar 2017 @ 2:05pm

    Encryption is the buy in. What he really is saying is "privacy is a problem".

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

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 9 Mar 2017 @ 3:14pm

    Complaining about the wrong thing

    Don't complain about going dark.

    Complain about going to the dark side (tm).

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

  • identicon
    BlueLightMemory, 9 Mar 2017 @ 3:19pm

    Why Comey Cries

    Comey's problem is that while he talks out of both sides of his mouth, his actions show he has a deep seated fetish that all American citizens should have no privacy, or 4th amendments rights. This is why he hates good encryption.

    He wants to be the boss, the big boss over everyone. Comey's way or no way. LOL.

    Get lost Comey.

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

  • identicon
    SpaceLifeForm, 9 Mar 2017 @ 3:23pm

    Mr. Comey, meet Mr. Comey

    http://www.politico.com/story/2017/03/james-comey-to-serve-full-term-235818


    “There is no such thing as absolute privacy in America,” Comey said, because “there is no place in America outside of judicial reach.”

    [He has MIC and DOJ confused]

    Comey added that he himself is a fan of privacy, especially with his Instagram account, which he said has nine followers and is limited to members of his family, and maybe a serious boyfriend of one of his daughters. “I don’t want anyone looking at my pictures,” he said.

    [Doubt anyone does]

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

  • identicon
    Personanongrata, 9 Mar 2017 @ 4:04pm

    Totalitarian Control Freak

    Despite Stream Of Leaks Exposing Tremendous Gov't Surveillance Capabilities, James Comey Still Complaining About 'Going Dark'

    How many persons has FBI/DOJ prosecuted of those involved the massive tens of trillions of dollars in fiscal control fraud perpetrated by bankers, insurers, underwriters (etal) in 2008 in part while under Jim Comey's "leadership" (scare quotes were used to inform the reader that the author of this comment is using the word within the quotes out of context of it's definition) beginning in 2013?

    Zero.

    Highlighted text below is from a letter sent by Elizabeth Warren to Jim Comey in 2016:

    Established by Congress in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown, the FCIC's statutory mandate included "refer[ring] to the Attorney General of the United States and any appropriate State attorney general any person that the Commission finds may have violated the laws of the United States in relation to such crisis." 1 The full archives of the FCIC proceedings have only recently been released.2 My staff has reviewed these records and identified 11 separate FCIC referrals of individuals or corporations to DOJ in cases where the FCIC found "serious indications of violation[s]" of federal securities or other laws consistent with this statutory mandate. 3 Nine specific individuals were implicated in these referrals - yet not one of these nine has gone to prison or been prosecuted for a criminal offense. Similarly, my staff identified 14 corporations that were referred to DOJ by the FCIC for potential violations of securities or other laws. Not one of the 14 was not criminally prosecuted, nor as any of the individuals responsible for the actions described in the FCIC referrals. Only five of these 14 corporations paid any fine or suffered any additional consequences for their actions. 4 The DOJ's inability to obtain meaningful convictions or settlements in the vast majority of these FCIC referrals - let alone in any other cases involving senior Wall Street executives - suggests that the Department failed to hold the individuals and companies most responsible for the financial crisis and the Great Recession accountable.

    https://theintercept.com/2016/09/15/elizabeth-warren-asks-newly-chatty-fbi-director-to- explain-why-doj-didnt-prosecute-banksters/

    How many persons has FBI referred to DOJ for prosecution of those involved in the kidnapping, torture and indefinite detention without charge under Jim Comey's "leadership"?

    Zero.

    However one person was prosecuted in 2012 not for committing acts of torture but rather confirming to a reporter that the US government sanctioned the use of torture.

    His name is John Kiriakou.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Kiriakou

    How many persons has FBI referred to DOJ for prosecution of those involved in lying the nation (US) into war in Iraq in 2003 (Afghanistan also but that is for another comment) at the cost of hundreds of thousands of American and Iraqi dead (possibly more), trillions of US dollars squandered and the complete destruction of the Middle East's most advanced and secular nation under Jim Comey's "leadership"?

    Zero.

    The war criminals responsible for these barbarous acts of wanton aggression still walk the land unencumbered. They are paid for their public speaking engagements and have security details and pensions paid for with US tax dollars.

    http://www.warcriminalswatch.org/index.php/the-culpable/36-the-culprits

    How many persons has FBI Referred to DOJ for prosecution of those involved in creating the wholly unconstitutional total surveillance state (at cost of hundreds of billions of US dollars) that sweeps up ever last American's digital data and stores it indefinitely for potential future exploitation under Jim Comey's "leadership"?

    Zero.

    Jim Comey in complete abdication of his oath to protect/defend the US Constitution actually aids/abets in the US governments criminal boondoggle that surveils everything and everyone all the time.

    It is clear that in his capacity as Director of FBI Jim Comey serves power before the rule of law and would not recognize leadership if she descended from the heavens herself and bit him on his royal rump.

    Jim Comey has all the makings of a totalitarian control freak. If he believes living your digital life in the open without encryption or with baked in government exploits (soft/hardware) he should lead by example.

    The highlighted text below was excerpted from the website wikipedia.org a page titled James Comey

    In August 2005, Comey left the DOJ and became General Counsel and Senior Vice President of Lockheed Martin, based in Bethesda, Maryland. In 2010, he became General Counsel at Bridgewater Associates, based in Westport, Connecticut. In early 2013, he left Bridgewater to become a Senior Research Scholar and a Hertog Fellow on National Security Law at Columbia Law School in the city of New York. He served on the Board of Directors of HSBC Holdings until July 2013.[2]

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Comey#FBI_Director

    Jim Comey served both high finance and the defence industry in his capacity as a private individual from 2005 - 2013 are there any potential conflicts of interest in his public capacity as Director FBI ?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Mar 2017 @ 4:05pm

    Balance?

    Comey (again) called for "balance"

    I think what he is REALLY saying is you can use encryption all you want, as long as there is a backdoor for Government to use at their will.

    That's the balance -- If you've got nothing to hide...

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Mar 2017 @ 1:40am

    Seek medical aid right away Comey!

    Seriously James Comey go and see an optometrist right away. Since if things are going dark wherever you investigate that strongly implies retinal detachment not the room going dark.

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

  • identicon
    Dr. Ramon de Torres, 10 Mar 2017 @ 12:33pm

    Roll back

    Given the problem of access wherein ousted president loosened the reins of power and security thus allowing deeper and more intrusive access by government spooks, what is being done to overturn this dastardly outgoing act?

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Math Is Not A Crime
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

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