Self-serving loss of perspective
If avoiding the arrival of a Maverick missile depends on your crypto, you're most likely not relying upon any of the standard P2P encrypted apps, because you know (a) every effort will have been made, using nation-state resources, to compromise them, and (b) you die if you trust third parties.
So my question to seemingly backward-looking spooks—who are so full of their self-righteousness and -importance that they apparently cannot even understand why a free democracy must have strong civil liberties if it is even to deserve to exist: and are, therefore, perhaps nowhere near as clever as they think they are—are fairly simple ones.
1. Have you, comfortable suited eavesdroppers, acquired an algorithm which can with more than 50% reliability identify large, dirty, noisy images which have very low-order, low-density steganography within them? How many of the 2,000,000,000 images shared every day are you managing to identify as having secret content? To the nearest ten?
2. Have you access to any reliable method of breaking a modern encryption standard such as AES256, or Blowfish or similar? What would be your success rate against messages, even allowing a crib phrase, of say 2kB in size? (Quite enough for decent Atrocity-Time-and-Date instructions.)
3. Alternatively, have you managed to compromise the world's open-source codebase of crypto algos so that no one, not even the designers, will notice? So that none of the world's several million competent coders could write a homebuild, effective crypto app?
4. Have you found a method of ensuring that Black Hats cannot access two computing devices with encrypted drives (whether tiny phone or workstation), one of which is never, ever connected to the net?
5. Have you found a way of ensuring that the BHs can't run whatever software they like on these devices?
Given that the answers are most certainly No, No (<1:1x10^6), Not a Chance, No and No, isn't it true that actually, sigint is pretty much uesless against a well-disciplined, intelligent, well-equipped enemy (i.e. the very kind you should be most worried about)?
Isn't it true, in fact, that against your most serious adversaries, you need to infiltrate, blackmail, cajole, observe, corrupt, befriend, compromise—what we, back in the day, used to call humint: a version of tired old plodding shoe leather and nasty, grubby risks? Have you considered how many Arabic speakers you could recruit for the cost of Latest Billion Dollar SuperSexy MegaHarvesting Computer? (You know, the one that pointlessly stores petabytes of innocent civilians' data obsessively logging shopping habits, personal interests, porn preferences and extramarital dalliances)?
Isn't it true that your gasping appetite for code-breaking is actually peripheral grandstanding, with a big dose of laziness? That the appeal of sitting cosily in your pyjamas, sipping cocoa and reading Ahmed's email, is rather selfishly idle? That while you are begging for ever more budget, power and self-importance to spend on ever bigger aerials and computers, your neglect of the difficult, gritty, risky business of humint is most likely killing people?
You can sip cocoa at the keyboard, and yes, we need a few of those; but if you weren't so deep into deluded self-serving groupthink about crypto, you'd understand that if you were doing your jobs properly, you'd be risking your lives drinking gritty tea in a dusty back street somewhere far away. Not quite so appealing, eh?
One wonders whether GCHQ and NSA and their Five Eyes ilk have really been so dim and unself-aware as to fall into one of the oldest of psychological traps: for them, owning a hammer, every problem becomes a nail. It certainly sounds that way.