Ahead Of His Senate Hearing, James Comey Pushes His 'Going Dark' Theory

from the same-old-Comey,-same-bad-arguments dept

Ahead of his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, FBI Director James Comey released his planned testimony, which covers a variety of subjects Comey hoped to cover during the hearing. A lot of the talking points were touched on, but Comey spent most of his time fielding questions from pissed-off senators about how much they were disappointed in recent FBI investigations.

The testimony Comey planned to give contains another discussion of the FBI-centric "going dark" issue. According to Comey, device encryption has blocked FBI's searches nearly 50% of the time, preventing it from pulling data from more than 3,000 phones. Comey also says other approaches -- such as using metadata or cellphone forensic software -- won't work. They're too expensive and won't scale. Left unsaid is Comey's desire for legislation or a few precedential court decisions to force manufacturers to compromise their customers' security.

He makes this argument by conflating privacy and security and using this conflation to arrive at a completely wrong conclusion. From Comey's testimony [PDF]:

Some observers have conceived of this challenge as a tradeoff between privacy and security. In our view, the demanding requirements to obtain legal authority to access data—such as by applying to a court for a warrant or a wiretap — necessarily already account for both privacy and security. The FBI is actively engaged with relevant stakeholders, including companies providing technological services, to educate them on the corrosive effects of the Going Dark challenge on both public safety and the rule of law. The FBI thanks the committee members for their engagement on this crucial issue.

Warrants and court orders cover the "privacy" end of the argument, but using court orders (or legislation) to force device makers to build backdoors in users' devices throws security out the window. The balancing act in the encryption debate has never been "privacy vs. security." It's been "security vs. insecurity." Comey's false equation presents privacy and security as two sides to the same coin, yet somehow completely separable in the presence of a court order. Fourth Amendment protections cover the privacy end, but showing up at a device backdoor with a warrant in hand does nothing for anyone's security.

Comey doesn't want a balancing act, despite all his assertions about "adult conversations" and deferring to the "smart people" at tech companies. He wants device owners to sacrifice security in exchange for protections they're already guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment.


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  • identicon
    SpaceLifeForm, 4 May 2017 @ 1:26pm

    Vault7 and CIA

    Comey has still not figured out that CIA has long been doing the 'going dark' route for years (double encryption).

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 May 2017 @ 1:36pm

    Security vs. Privacy

    Security and Privacy are linked, but in the opposite way the FBI claims. The balance here isn't "Privacy vs. Security", it is "(Private and Secure) vs. Not (Private and Secure)".

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

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 4 May 2017 @ 1:45pm

      Re: Security vs. Privacy

      Try explaining that to the Senate Judiciary Committee. They'll give you puzzled looks, and then Ted Cruz will come along and declare privacy "ObamaCare for security."

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 May 2017 @ 1:59pm

    Have they really forgotten how to do police work without the self created records that have only existed for about 10 years. They have had a golden decade and abused it, and now wonder why people are protecting themselves from an over bearing government.

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

  • identicon
    morons panicking unite, 4 May 2017 @ 2:03pm

    stupid twit comey

    people that were smart went "dark" 15+ years ago...

    i ocme here to tell you this cause obviously you nitwits about don't realize its too late to stop.

    We've now had 15 years to learn how to create and test our own encryptians and how to break them....

    and yes aacs 2.0 is broken.

    Also why use technology at all , when you can give a message in whole or part to someone not on any no fly list...that is already going somewhere it can then be taken and sent in any other ways.

    YOU created this form of intelligence by all your spying....Had you not been so paranoid and scared and harmed those that tried to help you....well it might be a better less scarey world for what you really don't know.

    later all and this ip will self destruct log away.

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

  • icon
    Ryunosuke (profile), 4 May 2017 @ 2:11pm

    i am curious how the FBI/CIA actually worked before the advent of the internet.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 May 2017 @ 2:13pm

    cutting red tape

    Why does the FBI even need to bother with getting manufacturer-provided backdoors (as well as court subpoenas) when their CIA friends across town already have all the tools needed to hack any computer or smartphone on the planet?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 May 2017 @ 2:26pm

    Hmm...

    They're too expensive and won't scale

    I'm all for the FBI being budget conscious. However, whenever I see a law enforcement agency complaining that they need to replace what they're doing with something else because the current system "won't scale" -- alarm bells go off. It's not like we suddenly have more terrorists or crimes over $10k happening than we used to with the current budget and techniques; so if they're wanting to scale out, that means they want to scale out investigations. That's usually at the expense of the citizenry.

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

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 4 May 2017 @ 2:46pm

    Looking down the road

    Comey is leading up to our needing permission to communicate with each other, right after he gets the press to accede to getting permission to publish news. Of course, that permission comes with the caveat of surveillance (check the non-negotiable TOS that comes with the permission slip), which in turn will lead to approval of both sides of the conversation, prior to having the conversation. He is just trying to eeeeease into the long term goal.

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

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 5 May 2017 @ 8:41am

      Re: Looking down the road

      Amusingly, even if he gets what he wants it will only make people go for open source alternatives that are beyond the Govt control net and people doing journalism anonymously behind these same security measures the US can't control at all.

      It's a lost war even if he gets some wind in some battles. I'd compare it to Vietnam where a very well equipped military with a heavy handed govt behind got their arses handed back to themselves by a bunch of underdeveloped apes. (I'm using the term ape as the government probably thought they were, this is not meant to degrade the Vietnamese)

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

    • identicon
      Alkurhah, 5 May 2017 @ 10:41am

      Re: Looking down the road

      All part of the permission based society where people need "permission" to do things. That includes permission to write certain things (copyright) or to make or do various things (patents). I understand that Comey is, not surprisingly, a big fan of those as well.

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

      • icon
        Aaron Walkhouse (profile), 5 May 2017 @ 1:27pm

        East Germany was such a society…

        …which reveals a lot about Putin, who served his KGB career there.

        Maybe that's who Comey wants to emulate. ‌ ;]

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 May 2017 @ 5:08pm

    I suggest James Comey to buy a flashlight (or candles).

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

  • identicon
    Digitari, 4 May 2017 @ 6:59pm

    Afraid of going "dark"

    is it just me or does anyone else see this as being Racists?

    Comey is white after all....

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

  • identicon
    My_Name_Here, 4 May 2017 @ 8:17pm

    You know my backdoor is always open for you, Comey.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 May 2017 @ 7:14am

    First came window blinds...

    ...then came encryption. What, oh what, are the poor police supposed to do?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 5 May 2017 @ 9:48am

      Re: First came window blinds...

      Revoke your rights, act as judge jury and executioner when desired, make up bs to calm the outragers, turn off the body cameras to allow self-attestation under presumption of righteousness, take bribes, seize your stuff without penalty, and just in general do whatever the h*** they want where and when ever they feel like it, without a care in the world.

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

  • icon
    TheResidentSkeptic (profile), 5 May 2017 @ 11:00am

    To be fair...

    it is dark where his head is.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 May 2017 @ 3:33pm

    And the subject nauseates him.

    As does anything with doing the right thing, being concerned about rights, the law as it applies to others and not his little team of Constitution Abusers

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 May 2017 @ 9:50pm

    "The FBI is actively engaged with relevant stakeholders"

    "Stakeholders": the townspeople chasing Dracula to put a stake through his heart.

    I'm not sure that the FBI will be happy with the type of "engagement" that these "stakeholders" have in mind.

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

  • icon
    SteveMB (profile), 8 May 2017 @ 6:09am

    "Won't Scale" Is A *FEATURE*, Not A Bug

    "Won't Scale" = "The Feds have to pick and choose actual suspects instead of snooping on everybody"

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


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