We’ve highlighted in the past that there are large parts of the federal government that recognize that strong encryption is actually very, very important for national security, and that the framing by Attorney General William Barr, FBI Director Christopher Wray, and even President Trump — that there need to be back doors to encryption for “security” reasons — is utter nonsense. The intelligence community has long recognized the importance of strong encryption. Even many people within the FBI think their bosses’ position on this issue is bonkers. Late last year, we were pleasantly surprised to see the Defense Department step up as well, with a letter to Congress talking about just how important encryption is for national security.
Over at Cyberscoop, former National Security Council cybersecurity expert Ari Schwartz has a nice article explaining just how important encryption is to protecting the military. It won’t tread any new ground for anyone who understands the basics here, but it’s nice to see more and more people highlighting this.
Last month, a brigade of U.S. soldiers deployed to the Middle East received instructions from their superiors to use two commercial encrypted messaging applications, Signal and Wickr, on their government issued cell phones. These leadership cues trickled down from the Department of Defense’s (DoD) position that strong encryption is critical to national security. While U.S. Attorney General William Barr continues to push for a broad mandate for backdoors for law enforcement, those on the front lines of protecting America have notably decided on a different approach. Simply put, weakening encryption means putting our military service members at risk.
The key point — and one that many of us have made for years is that the framing by Wray/Barr (and, for what it’s worth, James Comey before them) is that there’s some sort of conflict here between “security” and “privacy.” But that’s always been bullshit. The issue has always been between having both security and privacy vs. giving law enforcement easier access to data and information they can almost always get elsewhere with a little more effort. In short, it’s a debate between having security and privacy widely available against a bit of convenience for law enforcement. As such, this should be no debate at all.
Let’s stop wasting time suggesting that we need universal solutions that may solve law enforcement’s short-term needs, but then put consumers and our military at risk.
Somehow, I don’t think the time wasting is going to go away any time soon, unfortunately.
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