Trump Administration Demands An End To Strong Encryption While Being Exhibit A For Why We Need It

from the secrets-we-keep dept

In the 18th Century the Founding Fathers were worried about tyrants. They were worried about government officials abusing the powers of their office and the fate of the nation if there were no check on their power. In the 21st Century those concerns have hardly faded. Today we have a presidential administration that, if nothing else, has publicly (and privately) attempted to turn the ship of state against multiple political opponents, and with such an audacious expectation of impunity that it leaves no basis to believe it would not do the same to anyone else who stands against it.

It now it demands more tools to perpetuate these attacks. At a time when the survival of our democracy most critically depends on the people's ability to push back against these sorts of abuses of governmental power, the government seeks to hobble the public's ability to do it –- this time by destroying the ability to keep their communications secret. Because that's what encryption "backdoors" do: completely and utterly obliterate any technical ability to maintain the secrecy in one's data. You can't just backdoor them a little bit -– either communications are secure from all prying eyes, or none of them. And this administration is insisting that it should get to see them all.

This administration is not, of course, the first to have demanded the ability to get access to people's data. Both Democratic and Republican administrations have made similar demands (and even helped themselves to it). Each time they have articulated policy arguments for why the government should have the power to read people's private communications, and sometimes these arguments have even been compelling. But none have ever outweighed the critical liberty interest that depends on being able to prevent government access to all of everyone's private communications, and today we see exactly why.

The Constitution guarantees the personal freedom necessary to stand against a tyrannical state actor prone to misusing its power. We have been sloppy over the years in preserving that liberty legally, thanks to the implicit assumption that the government is inherently one of the Good Guys and the people seeking to keep their data private presumably are the Bad Guys. It is a view that has infected our understanding of the Fourth Amendment and allowed the government to invade people's privacy in ways the text of the Constitution never allowed. But today we see with painful clarity how it was also a view predicated on wholly unsound assumptions.

Today we regularly see our President, Chief Executive, and most senior official charged with enforcing our laws not only routinely flout these very same laws but also routinely threaten those whose sole "crime" is standing against him with vindictive, and meritless, ruinous prosecution. These are not the actions of a benevolent government eager to protect the public from wrongdoing. They are the actions of an autocrat all too happy to victimize people as willingly as the most hardened criminal.

Which leaves the public on its own to protect itself, and already significantly hampered. It is bad enough that Trump makes it so treacherous to speak out against him publicly. But when we can no longer speak publicly it becomes all the more important that we be able to speak privately – yet that is exactly what this administration is trying to prevent in demanding encryption backdoors. Should it get its wish, no one will be able to keep secrets from this administration, or challenge its power. It will be able to continue its abuses unchecked.

This untenable state of affairs is not what the Founders had in mind, what the Constitution permits, or what our continued democracy can tolerate. It is thus vital to resist this backdoor demand.

Filed Under: authoritarianism, backdoors, doj, encryption, free speech, going dark, privacy


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Oct 2019 @ 11:03am

    Every single Law 'n Order fanatic should support the impeachment inquiry, and yet they do not. They are complicit.

    I am tired of reading about what trump demands, next he will demand a lair of unicorns because Kim has one.

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 9 Oct 2019 @ 11:07am

    If you want to convince us this is the right thing to do, release all of sr. staffs whatsapp conversations.
    I mean its illegal for you to use them in your job, so there obviously nothing there that we can't see.

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

  • identicon
    Baron von Robber, 9 Oct 2019 @ 11:18am

    His obvious push for a dictatorial government is .....obvious.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Oct 2019 @ 11:32am

      Re:

      And roughly 30% of the US population is in favor of it.

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

      • icon
        Stephen T. Stone (profile), 9 Oct 2019 @ 11:48am

        The Republican Party has a platform that can’t prevail in democratic competition. … When highly committed parties strongly believe [in] things that they cannot achieve democratically, they don’t give up on their beliefs — they give up on democracy.

        As the outlook for conservatives and Republicans becomes more bleak, they’re going to face a choice: Either they accommodate some of the changes that are happening to American society, like universal heath coverage, or else they’re going to have to face up to the fact that what they believe can’t be achieved if everybody votes.

        (Source)

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2019 @ 2:38pm

          Re:

          "like universal heath coverage"

          Where does it actually work. No bullshit, really working, just one example? I would love to study it. I've tried to research, and I mean really research, and I keep coming up with the same thing. Extraordinary high taxes and/or crazy wait times and/or sub standard care. You've got a couple of countries that borderline work, but if you look at how it's implemented, you immediately see the cracks. Taiwan; It's not uncommon for GP's to see 50 patients before lunch... all the way to France, where the individual income tax can climbs well over 50%... bounce on over to Canada an the U.K., and wait 4 to 6 months to get an MRI.

          I'm totally open to hearing about a single payer or state controlled health care, but I'm not willing to give up HALF of what I make to make it work, and your absolutely NEVER going to convince me otherwise. It costs up to a half a million dollars in student loans to become a practicing Cardiologist. Fix that FIRST, then lets talk.

          https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3960712/

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

          • icon
            Toom1275 (profile), 10 Oct 2019 @ 7:47pm

            Re: Re:

            Found your problem: you're looking exclusively at right-wing propaganda's version of single-payer healthcare, not the real world.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 11 Oct 2019 @ 5:39am

              Re: Re: Re:

              So the answer is you can't. You can't give me an example where it works. The Righties have their problems, I don't agree with their wild west gun policies among other things... But this whole Leftist idea where single payer or universal health coverage is the answer is non-sense. All your doing is taking money from the middle class, and paying for health coverage for the poor. You think the rich are going to pay? The same rich with plenty of money for lobbyist, lawyers, and politician pocket lining? LOL! My premiums doubled, and my deductible doubled, and I didn't get to keep my doctor when Obama care was implemented. I can only imagine how bad it would be with single payer or universal health care.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 11 Oct 2019 @ 5:49am

              Re: Re: Re:

              Even if you take the politics out of the equation. I pay double, I don't get as much (higher deductible), and I don't get to pick what doctor I use. If universal health care is better, shouldn't I be paying less, have less of a deductible, and get to use whatever doctor I want? It's not getting better, it's getting worse.... at least for the people that already have it.

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

          • identicon
            urza9814, 15 Oct 2019 @ 11:41am

            Re: Re:

            ...compared to America, where I pay a few hundred a month, in addition to what my employer pays, for private health insurance that I've never once been able to use? I call a doctor and say I need a flu test or I need to get an infection looked at, and they tell me "next available appointment is in eight months." Utterly useless. So I pay a few thousand a year for insurance purely so I don't go bankrupt if I'm in some catastrophic accident, and then I pay a few hundred again out of pocket any time I have any actual healthcare needs because that's the only way to get something treated without waiting in line for a year...instead of seeing an actual doctor I'm ordering blood tests online and getting meds prescribed by some guy in a call center in Georgia. A six figure income still won't get you halfway decent healthcare in this country...

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

          • icon
            Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 16 Oct 2019 @ 1:29am

            Re: Re:

            "Where does it actually work. No bullshit, really working, just one example? "

            France.

            Unbelievable, true, but health care is that one area where what the french built actually works.

            Sweden and the UK are prime examples of health care which USED to work by throwing masses of money at a creaky and inefficient system.

            With the two types of universal health care EU member states have in hand we can rapidly find WHY some systems work and others not. In Sweden and the UK the planner and administrators are usually political appointees - well-versed in party ideology and not much else. As a result they keep screwing the system up in the name of ideological action.

            In France they simply put a gun to the head of the doctor with the best record of maintaining and administrating a hospital and tell him he's got a new job.

            What really keeps the US from adopting any working system of universal health care though, is the cost. The american taxpayer doesn't even want to fund core infrastructure around water and electricity even when it would keep him from drinking the flint river (or any of the other thousands of polluted waterways similarly used as a source of drinking water around the US) so how would you get him/her to fund health care?

            I don't know what is worse. The average american refusing to fund the stuff he and everyone else desperately needs...or the fact that the government in the US gives him a perfectly valid reason to think that money won't be well spent.

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

      • identicon
        Baron von Robber, 9 Oct 2019 @ 11:56am

        Re: Re:

        Sad but true. At least it's deminishing.

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

  • identicon
    MO'B, 9 Oct 2019 @ 11:42am

    A pity he won't drink his own Koolaid

    Any guesses who is a prime exmaple(s) of this? Anyone???

    "...the people seeking to keep their data private presumably are the Bad Guys."

    Good article Cathy! Depressing but good...

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Oct 2019 @ 12:10pm

      Re: A pity he won't drink his own Koolaid

      Secrecy is the governments version of privacy, the government has lots of secrets, so who are the Bad Guys?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Oct 2019 @ 1:10pm

    The house above the mcdonalds

    “End to strong encryption“

    I don’t think his administration uses encryption...actually I don’t think he even has a password...and if it was it would probably be 1234 knowing him.

    “Several days later”

    Secret service: so how did you know the presidents password?
    Trump: it was Biden wasn’t it!
    Me: I’m not upset. I’m just disappointed.

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

  • identicon
    A Guy, 9 Oct 2019 @ 1:17pm

    I don't want to say he doesn't think things through but....

    I wonder if Trump realizes that if he gets his way the Congressional impeachment investigators will be able to seize his IRS records, attorney communications and similar off government servers after they write their own subpoena/warrant.

    His precious "executive privilege" doctrine will be gone.

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

    • identicon
      bob, 9 Oct 2019 @ 1:44pm

      Re: I don't want to say he doesn't think things through but....

      Its not that the legal precedence of executive privilege (even his stretched view of it) will be gone. Its that any protections to enforce it will be gone because that wont have good encryption. Unless a special exemption is made for certain people and groups.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 9 Oct 2019 @ 1:58pm

        impeachment of the idiots

        “Special exception for certain groups”

        “2 weeks later”

        Jr:Jesus dad..
        Trump: oh oh here we go. I choose a phone I LIKE Becuase the one with GOOD security was bad and now they have evidence? My fualt? MY fualt?
        Jr: you gave yourself security privilege...
        Trump: “does the hand thing” and I did not LIKE the PHONE with the SECURITY.

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

      • identicon
        A Guy, 9 Oct 2019 @ 8:00pm

        Re: Re: I don't want to say he doesn't think things through but.

        Do you think the "the governments press is more protected than the citizen's press" argument is going to fly in court?

        That's where this is heading (again) if they try to implement any regulations. After the court almost certainly tells the government no (again). And then we will be back to we actually do like the first amendment more than the executive branch as a population usually anyway.

        If the executive branch has to eat its own dogfood on the encryption issue they'll probably stop bitching about it.

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

        • identicon
          bob, 10 Oct 2019 @ 4:50pm

          Re: Re: Re: I don't want to say he doesn't think things through

          No, I know it won't fly. But that doesn't negate the fact that time after time the legislature carves out exceptions for itself all the time on various laws. Like exempting themselves from Obama care.

          This administration however keeps trying to argue it is more special than anyone else despite what law, legal precedents, norms, ethics, and any other standard of behavior you can come up with says.

          Until someone or some group checks that power grab by politicians, it will keep happening until we do end up living in an authoritarian state. So far throughout the USA's history there has been an effective enough check to keep our democracy from toppling. But that process of checks and balances only matters if people follow it or power is forcibly removed from people that won't follow it.

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

        • identicon
          A Guy, 10 Oct 2019 @ 5:21pm

          WOW that was horrible grammar

          This is what it sounded like in my head:

          That's where this is heading (again) if they try to implement any regulations. After the court almost certainly tells the government no (again) and we will be back to being a population that actually does like the first amendment more than the executive branch (still).

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

  • identicon
    Mel Feasans, 10 Oct 2019 @ 10:21am

    POTUS - A license to commit treason without punishment.

    "These are not the actions of a benevolent government eager to protect the public from wrongdoing. They are the actions of an autocrat all too happy to victimize people as willingly as the most hardened criminal."

    Criminal? Hardly. From what I can see, not only is the POTUS above the law, but there is apparently no actual punishment for a POTUS who breaks the law. There is absolutely no reason for Trump to NOT do any damn thing he pleases to the people of the USA.

    In fact, the US tax payer will be on the hook for many more millions of dollars given directly to Trump's family for life. No matter how evil the POTUS, there is simply no legal reason for a sitting POTUS to NOT break the law as often as they please.

    In fact, becoming president of the United States is apparently, a license to try and make America your Bitch, and get paid to do it.

    All that impeachment does is get his ass fired from the job. He and his family still gets paid forever by the US tax payer I think. Correct me if I'm wrong here, please.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Oct 2019 @ 12:30pm

      Re: POTUS - A license to commit treason without punishment.

      Impeachment & conviction also makes him ineligible to hold any Federal office again. (If he was impeached + convicted by Nov. 2020, he'd be ineligible for a 2nd term.) No idea if impeached/convicted officials still get their pensions, though...

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

      • identicon
        A Guy, 10 Oct 2019 @ 2:00pm

        Re: Re: POTUS - A license to commit treason without punishment.

        I think you're thinking of treason not impeachment.

        I know he can run for President if he is impeached. It's directly in the Constitution.

        He can also run for President if he's convicted of treason though he may not hold appointed offices unless they changed the law. There are only 2 requirements for running for President.

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

  • identicon
    Mel Feasanz, 14 Oct 2019 @ 10:12pm

    License to make America his bitch...

    Wow. And here I was thinking I was the one out of the loop.

    Once 'elected' and seated as POTUS, there is no crime (save murder I hope) serious enough to prevent the probably Ex-POTUS and his kin from cashing in on millions of dollars in yearly retirement cash, as well as round the clock protection service from the Secret Service. And the American Tax payers foot the bill for all of it.

    (other nice things like paid TV and speaking engagements and such, for life, due to having once been POTUS, come free).

    Is any of that true? Except the forever part... I hope. Its sorta like making the rape victim pay for the rapist's therapy... Any American Lawyers out there have a moment of unpaid time to spare?

    I mean WTF!

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


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