FBI Director Ignores More Than 500 Ongoing Capitol Raid Prosecutions To Complain That Encryption Is Keeping Criminals From Being Caught

from the why-are-all-these-trees-blocking-my-view-of-the-forest? dept

FBI Director Chris Wray needs to shut the fuck up about encryption.

It has been 1,112 days since the FBI promised to perform a recount of encrypted devices in its possession, after overstating it by thousands for months in service of former director Jim Comey's "going dark" haymaking.

As of November 2016, the number in the FBI's possession was only around 880 devices. It suddenly jumped to 3,000 six months later. Then it doubled to 6,000 in less than five months. By the end of that fiscal year, four months later, the FBI had added another 1,775 uncrackable devices to its total.

That brought the alleged total to nearly 8,000 devices. The actual number -- should the FBI ever get around to releasing it -- is expected to be under 2,000.

Add to this the fact that the FBI doesn't seem to be having much trouble hunting down criminals and terrorists. The FBI ran its own backdoored encrypted chat software for months, leading to dozens of arrests around the world. It ran seized child porn servers in order to deliver malware that coughed up identifying info about visitors to illicit dark web sites. Its crack team of undercover agents and informants have put a large number of terrorists behind bars, even though these successes are tainted by the agency's willingness to radicalize people just so it can bust them. And it has obtained all sorts of evidence to use against more than 500 defendants in the January 6th Capitol raid cases.

Despite all of this, Chris Wray is still complaining about encryption's supposed ability to render the FBI (and other law enforcement agencies) blind and useless. His recent testimony before the House Judiciary Committee takes time to highlight all the FBI's successes. But it also allows Wray to show off the latest in dead horse-beating rhetorical devices.

The proliferation of end-to-end and user-only-access encryption is a serious issue that increasingly limits law enforcement’s ability, even after obtaining a lawful warrant or court order, to access critical evidence and information needed to disrupt threats, protect the public, and bring perpetrators to justice.

If this were true, the FBI wouldn't have nearly as many success stories to entertain its Congressional oversight with. The FBI appears to be doing just fine, despite Wray's protestations otherwise.

And he's preaching to a choir that remains unconverted. The FBI has been complaining for the better part of a half-decade and it's no closer to obtaining favorable legal precedent or encryption-breaking legislation than it was back then. The FBI's directors have only one record. And it's broken. Enjoy this supremely shitty tune you've all heard too many times before.

The FBI remains a strong advocate for the wide and consistent use of responsibly-managed encryption—encryption that providers can decrypt and provide to law enforcement when served with a legal order.

Ah, yes. "Responsibly-managed encryption." Apparently allowing the government on-demand access through built-in flaws or storage of encryption keys where anyone -- even criminals -- can access them is more "responsible" than what's being offered to the public now. The only acceptable encryption is broken encryption, according to the FBI. Backdoors, keys under the doormat, keys behind the counter at the front desk that can be obtained by request… all of these euphemisms fit the FBI's encryption ideal, which is obviously far from ideal and anything but a net gain for public safety.

Chris Wray refuses to move past the "denial" stage of his self-inflicted grief.

What we mean when we talk about lawful access is putting providers who manage encrypted data in a position to decrypt it and provide it to us in response to the legal process. We are not asking for, and do not want, any “backdoor,” that is, for encryption to be weakened or compromised so that it can be defeated from the outside by law enforcement or anyone else.

It's a backdoor. Providers holding keys presents an opening for others… you know, "law enforcement or anyone else." It may present itself as a front door with a doorman willing to oblige visiting cops, but it's still an entrance that isn't there presently, when providers allow users to hold their own encryption keys. To meet Wray halfway, it's a door. But it's a door whose presence exists solely because law enforcement desires it and which will present an enticing target for enterprising cybercriminals and state-sponsored hackers.

As I was saying, Chris Wray can fuck right off.

Unfortunately, too much of the debate over lawful access has revolved around discussions of this “backdoor” straw man instead of what we really want and need.

Hey, it's your straw man, dude. While other people present the facts -- that encryption cannot be "safely" broken -- Wray and his DOJ/FBI ilk continue to insist this common sense response is nothing more than a straw man offered up by people arguing in bad faith.

But it's the FBI that's been arguing in bad faith for years. It also insists encryption is zero sum: either law enforcement has access or the criminals win. This willfully ignores the FBI's numerous options for obtaining communications and data that do not require forcing its way through the front of someone's seized phone. And since the FBI won't be honest about the extent of the problem it claims it faces -- i.e., not updating the number of locked devices in its possession for more than THREE YEARS -- no one should feel obliged to meet it halfway, much less engage in an "adult conversation" with a bunch of children who have misrepresented the facts for years.

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Filed Under: backdoors, chris wray, encryption, fbi, going dark


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2021 @ 6:48am

    Lets just say they have 4 devices. just four. And publicly announce this number.

    If they want to disagree with this, provide evidence.

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

  2. icon
    PaulT (profile), 16 Jun 2021 @ 6:51am

    "And it has obtained all sorts of evidence to use against more than 500 defendants in the January 6th Capitol raid cases"

    To be fair, a lot of that has come from them either live-streaming their crimes as they happened, or being such insufferable assholes IRL that they get turned in by anyone from childhood acquaintances to potential dates. If all crimes were that easy to solve, the FBI would be asking for less data to sift through, not more.

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

  3. identicon
    Pixelation, 16 Jun 2021 @ 6:51am

    FBI: "Here is your Swiss cheese condom. Use it responsibly."

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

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2021 @ 6:59am

    I think they forget that it's their job to protect us, not just arrest us.

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

  5. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Upstream (profile), 16 Jun 2021 @ 7:18am

    Our real challenge

    I, and a great many others, can easily recognize, and ignore, the Alice in Wonderland contradictions of Chris Wray for the nonsensical rantings of a power-hungry, police state authoritarian that they are. Our real challenge is getting Congress, the Courts, and Joe "Executive Order" Biden / Kamala "Dictator in Waiting" Harris (and whoever may come after them) to do the same.

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

  6. icon
    K`Tetch (profile), 16 Jun 2021 @ 8:22am

    "it's difficult to get the FBI director to understand privacy when his whole organization depends on his not acknowledging it"
    (apologies to Upton Sinclair)

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

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2021 @ 8:23am

    Re: Our real challenge

    and Joe "Executive Order" Biden / Kamala "Dictator in Waiting" Harris (and whoever may come after them) to do the same.

    The projection here is hilarious!

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

  8. icon
    Scott Yates (profile), 16 Jun 2021 @ 8:29am

    Re:

    [If all crimes were that easy to solve, the FBI would be asking for less data to sift through, not more.]

    Ahh, you must be new here, and have missed all the FBI stories.

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

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2021 @ 9:25am

    i dont understand why people cant or wont see what's right in front of them? governments and security forces everywhere are going down the same roads, or so it appears. anything that can be done to remove any and all freedom and privacy from the ordinary people is being done! at the same time, anything and everything that can be done to preserve the freedom and (more importantly!) the privacy of the rich, the famous and all their friends is also being done! the planet is fast becoming the dream of dictators, of police states and anything else that turns the whole planet into one of the elite enslaving the rest of us! going back to the days of the Roman Empire etc is not what being born is all about! being forced to do what those elite, those security services and those governments is not what it's all about either. we are all here together, to benefit and for the benefit of all, not just so a few can gain while the rest of us loses. wars have been fought over this attitude and it's disgraceful. we never seem to learn!

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

  10. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 16 Jun 2021 @ 9:55am

    'They keep refusing to accept my lying, it's not fair.'

    The proliferation of end-to-end and user-only-access encryption is a serious issue that increasingly limits law enforcement’s ability, even after obtaining a lawful warrant or court order, to access critical evidence and information needed to disrupt threats, protect the public, and bring perpetrators to justice.

    Great, then stop trying to make the public less safe by demanding that encryption be crippled and lying about it.

    For someone who claims that he just wants to better protect the public he is advocate number one for the interests in criminals worldwide, who would absolutely love it if every encryption system came pre-broken and with a known key.

    Unfortunately, too much of the debate over lawful access has revolved around discussions of this “backdoor” straw man instead of what we really want and need.

    Tech companies and people calling you out on your lying aren't attacking strawmen, they're attacking the actual goal of broken encryption with a built-in backdoor that you're too dishonest to admit to, and refusing to let you dictate how the discussion will be framed in your favor. Don't like it then stop lying and attempting to undermine public safety and security.

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

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2021 @ 10:51am

    What we mean when we talk about lawful access is putting providers who manage encrypted data in a position to decrypt it and provide it to us in response to the legal process.

    So go ahead. The user is the one who manages encrypted data. Says so on the package: "End to End". The company only ever transfers data, not 'encrypted data'. The fact that the company never looks at the data is beside the point.

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

  12. icon
    sumgai (profile), 16 Jun 2021 @ 11:28am

    Re: Our real challenge

    Assigns the status of 'factual truth' to feelings. Not acceptable as evidence.

    [Gavel:] BANG!

    Bailiff, call the next case please.

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

  13. icon
    sumgai (profile), 16 Jun 2021 @ 11:31am

    Re: at

    Apologies not needed. If he were alive today, he would've beat you to it.

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

  14. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 16 Jun 2021 @ 11:55am

    Re:

    'But that takes work, and the owner of the device/account has standing to refuse our demands thanks to that annoying 'fifth amendment' garbage...'

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

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2021 @ 2:00pm

    Re:

    Chris Wray would literally stage a photo op with 5 or 6 devices.

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

  16. icon
    ECA (profile), 16 Jun 2021 @ 2:01pm

    I wonder

    How many of those phones are Throw away?
    Hard to prove who they belong to.
    Cash on demand phones.
    Find them everywhere, and they get cheaper as they get older.
    Which is funny, as a $200, 5 years ago, is now $50.
    Considering cellphones base operating system is Linux, haking into it isnt to hard. The App's being USED, can have other protections. As they have figured out with Their own chat program.
    Does the FBI think there is a group making the Chat/msg programs JUST for the crooks? How much are they charging for that?

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

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Jun 2021 @ 3:02pm

    Re: Re:

    That would still be better than what we have now.

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

  18. icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 16 Jun 2021 @ 4:07pm

    "To Serve and Protect"

    But that isn't their job. SCOTUS rulings aside, Comey changed the mission of the FBI from law enforcement to national security. Though like the rest of law enforcement in the US it seems to have taken on mass confiscation since that is more profitable than actually trying to serve a public purpose.

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

  19. icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 16 Jun 2021 @ 4:16pm

    I'm reminded of the Portland abductions by LGM

    Although most of the victims of the DHS who were abducted without due process were typically released after a few hours, their phones were confiscated and kept, and lawyers are to this day trying to get them back.

    So when the FBI holds up phones they allegedly need to get into, what I see (until demonstrated otherwise) are the confiscated devices of innocent Americans whose property continues to be held by a government agency that has no established cause or need to search these phones.

    What trustworthy institution do we have to review these phones and their possession by the federal government and their rightful owners? Until this, and every part of the DHS and national security sector can actually demonstrate it serves a public serving purpose, I hope it not only goes dark for them, but it all falls into a singularity they can never reach.

    I have not one cause to have respect for the FBI.

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

  20. icon
    PaulT (profile), 16 Jun 2021 @ 10:16pm

    Re: Re:

    Nah, I'm familiar. I just mean that at some point data becomes overwhelming and causes a lot more work to deal with. I'd imagine that even the FBI would reach a point where the data causes them to do more work and have less power, so they'd ask for less of it.

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

  21. icon
    Alasdair Fox (profile), 17 Jun 2021 @ 5:22am

    Re: I wonder

    "Does the FBI think there is a group making the Chat/msg programs JUST for the crooks? "

    There is. It's called the FBI (with perhaps a little help from the Australian Police)

    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/06/08/murder-plots-mass-shootings-thwarted-fbi-designe d-app-global/

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

  22. icon
    Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 17 Jun 2021 @ 6:02am

    Re:

    "going back to the days of the Roman Empire etc is not what being born is all about!"

    Unless you are an american in which case you were probably born into the last days of the ailing Roman Republic v2.0.

    "i dont understand why people cant or wont see what's right in front of them?"

    Because people will blindly believe either what they fear is true or what they want to be true. The US is, to large extent, stuck in the early 1900's as far as the general state of education, social infrastructure, healthcare availability and political hierarchy is concerned. With the major urban areas often standing out as isolated exceptions to a nation where for many generations now, a lot of children were left behind.

    In a country where, according to the NCES, roughly 1 in 6 (17%) of adults are barely literate or functionally illiterate; and another 31% barely hit literacy level 2; you can not expect the population as a whole, to be capable of learning much of anything.

    So the answer to your question is that more than half the population can't see what's in front of them or even understand what they're seeing. And then their friend at the bar, their preacher, or their crazy uncle, tells them all about how the liberal devils are going to sell their children to the kenyan muslim through some pizza parlor, using hunter bidens laptop, and burn down their house with those jewish space lasers.

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

  23. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jun 2021 @ 10:54pm

    going dark...

    the fbi wouldn't know what going dark is. even if they were in a windowless room and the lights went out. they would just assume the water went out again....

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


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