back to article 'Just follow the damn Constitution!' FBI, DoJ skewered over demands for crypto backdoors

FBI agents and US Department of Justice officials perhaps thought they were in for an easy ride during a congressional hearing on crime, terrorism and encryption. If so, they were mistaken. House reps on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee tore into the Feds' demands for skeleton keys to decrypt citizens' private …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Executive Summary

    We already have multiple private backdoors, why do we need public front doors as well ? Enough misdirecting the public (for now), we have re-elections coming up very soon.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Executive Summary

      Best Iain Thomson article yet. I've been harsh on him in the past, but I'm proud to say this one one of my fav Reg articles.

      +++1 !

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Back to square one?

    Our "rights" are safe then. Our privacy is as sacred as it always was. Those nasty TLAs which have been busying themselves shouting so uncharacteristically publicly "we NEED back doors in everything (cos we ain't got nothing now. Honest)" ever since Edward Snowden confirmed their ubiquitous unbridled surveillance have been equally loudly and publicly told "no". What a shocker! A fine display of pantomime. Nothing to see here. Move along...

    Well, enough ranting about the bloody obvious. The clocks are striking thirteen so it must be time for lunch.

  3. silent_count
    Thumb Up

    Well done to the people of California and Texas for having the distinction of voting in the one member of each major party who actually seem to have a clue.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Yeah, and it would seem have led so exemplary lives that the TLAs didn't have anything to blackmail them with... :-P

      Seriously though, very impressed that they stood up to the TLAs and told them to stop being so stupid.

  4. jonnycando

    Not Often

    does Washington listen, but once in a while....

  5. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Now if those same two had a say in the so-called USA Freedom Act... which isn't "freedom". There's some others in Congress who have some knowledge or at least have friends they can call for advice on things like this and they often do. Sadly, the lobbyists and LEO's usually win since logic an reason don't matter when there's power to be grabbed.

    I hope this won't come up again, but I suspect there's a willing Congress Critter who will attach a rider that mandates what the FBI, etc. want. Impossible it maybe, they'll still mandate it.

  6. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Holmes

    It's called fascism

    "unaccountable corporate interests produce things people want"

    ... and we must stop them because everyone is accountable to the State.

    Yes, we have had quite a few freakshows like those.

    Frankly, these guys should be fired at once for incompetence in (mental incompatibility with?) public office.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reaping what you sow..

    That is all.

    But god it is funny watching em run now....

  8. Geoffrey Thomas
    Thumb Up

    Good that R. Chaffetz got Hess to state publically about mobile phone tracking and not keeping it private.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "with elections not too far off"

    Despite what you may have been led to believe by the nearly unending presidential election cycle, there won't be any major US elections for another year and a half.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      "Despite what you may have been led to believe by the nearly unending presidential election cycle, there won't be any major US elections for another year and a half."

      Doesn't matter. ANY politician sees 18 months as the beginning of the campaign season. They don't consider the next election "far enough" off until around 24 months or so. And that's why Representatives NEVER stop campaigning.

  10. moiety

    "Conley said the technology was aiding child pornographers, terrorists and, rather bizarrely, people who take upskirt photos of women on public transport."

    Given the number of public figures who are subsequently found doing the thing they are supposed to prevent, are we taking any bets on this? That does seem oddly specific.

  11. Christoph Silver badge

    "with a warrant, of course"

    ROFL!

    How long would that last? Perhaps a few months, before they 1> start doing it anyway and 2> Start agitating for it to be legal "or you're aiding terrorists and paedophiles!!!"

    And none of them consider that there are places outside the USA. How the hell are US tech companies supposed to sell stuff abroad which is specifically known to be backdoored by the US government?

  12. Graham Marsden
    Childcatcher

    It's good to see...

    ... that at least *some* politicians aren't suckered by the Paedos and Terrorists and Criminals, oh my! nonsense.

    It's just a shame that so many of the others are trotting out the same tired old rhetoric and are willing to bend over backwards (and make everyone else bend over forward) on the altar of "security".

  13. Tromos

    At last!

    The message is starting to begin to commence to get through.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is why, as an American

    I buy non-American encryption.

  15. b166er

    "Apple and Google don't have coercive power. District attorneys do, the FBI does, the NSA does, and to me it's very simple to draw a privacy balance when it comes to law enforcement and privacy: just follow the damn Constitution. And because the NSA didn't do that and other law enforcement agencies didn't do that, you're seeing a vast public reaction to this."

    A politician said this? I like this guy.

  16. LDS Silver badge

    TSA locks, anyone?

    Since when to travel to USA you are forced to ensure your luggage carries a standard backdoor - of course just to be used by TSA personnel for security reasons - your luggage can be easily opened by anyone, and if you really store anything valuable in it, you're really very naïve or an idiot. I would like to know how many terrorists have been arrested or deterred by TSA locks, and how many goods were even more easily stolen because of them. And often, by TSA personnel itself.

    Is FBI going to ask a backdoor in every safe and door, because inside it or behind it there could be an evidence, or a crime is being committed?

    Sure, just like technology can help investigations - think DNA - it could also make them more difficult, especially if law enforcement agencies chase the 'easy way' and don't get prepared for the difficult one.

    Or they believe they could also enforce US backdoors in foreign devices? Or once the backdoor exists, refuse to give the key to some countries were it takes very little to be declared an enemy of the state and searched? What if some mobe, even of foreign citizens, is inspected in countries where, for example, homosexuality, or even carrying some books is a crime?

    I may understand FBI fears of being unable to gather evidence. But tha is a risk that always existed in a democracy. Better they stop asking for a dangerous, unlawful easy way, and invest in training to better investigation techniques.

  17. shovelDriver

    TSA Locks as an Alibi

    There have been many reports of individuals, after they arrived at their destination, discovering they had inadvertently left knives, guns, and even cans of shaving cream or mid-sized bottles of (insert liquid of choice) in their checked and in some cases carry-on luggage. Items which the TSA somehow failed to detect.

    Remember this the next time you are accused. Just point out that the mandatory TSA Locks are like the marijuana found in a trash can ploy. Anyone could have put it there, since the TSA Lock is an open door for how many TSA security checked but not law enforcement and uninvestigated-yet employees, luggage handlers, ramp personnel, and so on.

    It doesn't even matter what country you are in at the moment. The TSA-approved locks are so ubiquitous, in so many airport stores and such, that there isn't a government, or criminal organization, in this world who doesn't already have the master key.

    For that matter, your personal vehicle . . . there are only so many mechanical keys and keycodes available. you'd be surprised how many different locks your car key will open.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: TSA Locks as an Alibi

      "It doesn't even matter what country you are in at the moment. The TSA-approved locks are so ubiquitous, in so many airport stores and such, that there isn't a government, or criminal organization, in this world who doesn't already have the master key."

      Just for the record, there is no ONE TSA master key. That's why the locks are numbered, so the agent knows which skeleton key to use. Not saying this makes breaking in that much more difficult, but just clarifying.

  18. shovelDriver

    re TSA Locks as an Alibi

    I forgot to point out that, as with TSA locks, so with government-mandated encryption. All you have to do to establish reasonable doubt is point out the huge number of organizations and people, government, criminal (yes, I know that's redundant, but . . .), corporate and otherwise who have the "keys".

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is all very good.....

    But it will be better when Washington no longer lets the military, security agencies and LEAs continue framing the "privacy vs security" debate. So far it has only produced bad legislation, extensive, highly intrusive police powers with no real oversight, trillion dollar war expenditures, and hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties.

    Currently, the pols seem more focused on perpetuating bad legislation (like the Patriot Act) or creating more bad legislation (like SOPA and PIPA), instead of encouraging better law enforcement practice and enforcing legislation that was passed in quieter times.

    I prefer a few Iphone-brandishing terrs to heavily armed police forces hell-bent on removing what is left of our 4th Amendment rights in the name of "public safety". The first can be countered in a number of ways and will eventually quiet down. I wish I could say the same for the latter.

    At least the debate is coming out and has started to look sane. Actions must now follow words. Let's start by eradicating post 9/11 hysteria from the discussion. It has only fuelled one of the arguably worst and darkest periods in American (and world) history.

    Strong encryption and fast-paced, ubiquitous technology are not the enemy. OBL and his heritors are killing people with weapons that are centuries old. Most tech users just want to live in peace, improve their lives or gain a livelihood. They don't all need to be wearing a global ankle bracelet.

    Legislative over-reach and surveillance has to be reined in now, before it gets worse. Nations will not grow their economies or thrive freely in an environment where citizens must constantly look over their shoulders, live in fear or expend energy trying to defend themselves against clumsy, misguided, or downright corrupt, state-mandated prying (and newly-enabled cyber-criminals).

    The founding fathers understood this problem very well. That is why the 4th amendment was written into the US Constitution. That is why we have courts, rules of evidence and limits on police and state power. That is why you should encrypt your phone, your correspondence, your data and anything else about your life that you would like to keep private. If the cops want to look at your private life, they need to go before a judge and get a warrant or else arrest you.

    "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things ..."

    In my book, "things" pretty much covers it all... but then I am not a constitutional scholar just someone who is sick of the whole filthy debate and the stain it has left on democracy.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is all very good.....

      "I prefer a few Iphone-brandishing terrs to heavily armed police forces hell-bent on removing what is left of our 4th Amendment rights in the name of "public safety". The first can be countered in a number of ways and will eventually quiet down. I wish I could say the same for the latter."

      But suppose those few iPhone-brandishing terrs can do A LOT of damage: if not outright destabilize the country and put EVERYONE in danger?

      1. DocJames

        Re: This is all very good.....

        But suppose those few iPhone-brandishing terrs can do A LOT of damage: if not outright destabilize the country and put EVERYONE in danger?

        What, all 280 million people in the US? Or are you *only* talking about the 60-70 million in the UK?

        I think you need to consider reality as an alternative worldview.

        OTOH, I think the post you're replying to (" It has only fuelled one of the arguably worst and darkest periods in American (and world) history.") also needs to rein in the rhetoric: this has been bad, but not the worst.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: This is all very good.....

          "What, all 280 million people in the US? Or are you *only* talking about the 60-70 million in the UK?"

          How about we just go with about all 1-billion-plus people in western civilization. Omnicidal maniacs for lack of a better term. If you were up against a threat of that caliber who could be hiding literally anywhere, most thinking would be all bets are off because it's automatically an existential threat.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This is all very good.....

        You mean do more harm than they have already done without legally mandated backdoors? Successfully drawing the US into a land and air campaign that has lasted for over 15 years, cost many billions, killed many hundreds of thousands, and diminished the US both politically and economically has already created a lot of damage and instability.

        Let's start by defining "outright de-stabilize" or a "lot of damage". Then explain how this can be prevented with back-doored comms being made available to law-enforcement (and anyone else who discovers or buys them).

        Then explain how weakening everyone's digital security will prevent people with back-doored Iphones (which they will of course immediately stop using) from destabilizing the world further and creating a lot of damage.

        It's not as easy as it looks and most of the arguments will not withstand scrutiny. We MIGHT catch a few more bad guys, but the good and bad guys will also have access to everything we do online, which is not a very good trade-off, IMHO.

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