US Attorney General William Barr's push against encryption concerns some FBI officials

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in General Discussion
The continuing push by US Attorney General William Barr and government officials for Apple and other tech companies to assist law enforcement by weakening encryption is a continuation of a long-standing argument, but some within the FBI disagree with the latest political volleys to break device security.

The FBI headquarters: The J. Edgar Hoover Building
The FBI headquarters: The J. Edgar Hoover Building


In the last week, Apple has come under fire from both the FBI and Barr, with each demanding help in gaining access to two iPhones at the center of the ongoing Pensacola shooter investigation. As part of the demand on Monday, Barr used the occasion to keep pushing forward the agenda of having access to secured communications.

"This situation perfectly illustrates why it is critical that the public be able to get access to digital evidence," said Barr, referring to his earlier encryption debate arguments. In earlier comments, Barr called for the creation of backdoors that provided access for law enforcement officials, yet somehow do not weaken encryption for normal users.

While the FBI is seemingly agreeing in public with the general sentiments, with FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Director David Bowdich both echoing comments to further the agenda, not everyone within the FBI believes this is the right way to go.

Damaging Relationships

Senior FBI officials have apparently expressed concern about Barr's tone against tech companies for failing to capitulate, sources told the Wall Street Journal, as it may not necessarily be in the best interests of the bureau. The public claims have a possibility of souring existing relationships between the FBI and the tech companies.

The relationships work in both directions, with tech companies complying with warrants where possible and providing assistance to the FBI in cases where agents run into technical problems that require specialist knowledge. As well as providing assistance, tech companies also rely on receiving it from the FBI, especially in cases where they are victims of crimes that have national security or counterintelligence implications, something law enforcement agencies want to have reported to them.

Other officials were also worried about how Barr went after Apple in this latest installment, with the view that the Pensacola investigation is not the right venue for Barr to press his case over encryption. This is in part due to the belief Apple has already provided some assistance to the investigation, a sentiment Apple also agrees with.

According to former FBI general counsel Jim Baker, who previously clashed with Apple in 2016 over a locked iPhone, the issue for the officials is whether publicly arguing with tech companies is "worth the cost in terms of time, effort, and damage to the FBI's relationship with the tech sector."

The same sentiments are not felt by senior Justice Department officials, who believe the hefty nudge by Barr was needed to further the investigation, as the locked iPhones could provide extra clues about the shooter's intentions, including whether he conspired with other people located outside the United States.

Future Moves

Moving forward, Barr and other departments are offering few clues as to what their next moves will be, though Barr suggests the Administration is looking into solving the access problem via legislative means.

As for court challenges, such as the one Apple may face for the current investigation, a move to do so by the Justice Department is thought to be a risky move that could backfire and make it harder to acquire access in the future.

Former secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff suggests "there's a risk that you wind up with a situation worse than the status quo." A ruling that goes against the Justice Department has the potential to limit access to tools, such as those from Graykey and Cellebrite, which are already used by law enforcement for evidence collection.

"It's not clear to me why this fight is advantageous to anybody," Chertoff said.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 24
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,798member
    Back doors are a terrible idea. An adult needs to explain it to this administration. 
    FLMusiccyberzombieviclauyycAnilu_777jony0olsdysamoriawatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 24
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 8,987member
    jungmark said:
    Back doors are a terrible idea. An adult needs to explain it to this administration. 
    “This administration”? Try ALL administrations past , present, and future. They’ll bide their time until a major catastrophe strikes the nation  (say, Omaha gets nuked) and then make their move. And we’ll gladly give it up to them.
    jimh2mwhitechabigcyberzombiejony0georgie01olscornchipnetroxwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 24
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 2,353member
    It just isn't the place of the DOJ to decide whether strong encryption is legal or not -- that's up to Congress. 
    rob53jony0dysamoriawatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 24
    I want this to be followed:

     Amendment IV. The right of the people to be securein their persons, houses, papersand 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 to be seized.
    rob53baconstangviclauyycAnilu_777jony0olsbonobobcornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 24
    spice-boyspice-boy Posts: 1,430member
    Rules don't matter anymore didn't you hear?
    baconstangviclauyycminicoffee
  • Reply 6 of 24
    The president is demanding that Apple install a backdoor on his iPhone. Perhaps he should rethink that position...
    GeorgeBMacbaconstangAnilu_777jony0larryaolsbonobobcornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 24
    The governments repeated attacks against Apple with disinformation is very disturbing, but this is the new normal from members of the US government. 

    Change public perception: Repeating a lie enough times and it becomes the truth
    Change the laws: You only need to establish legal precedence once to achieve victory

    Whats accomplished:
    democracy - > authoritarianism 

    The greatest threat to America isn’t foreign, but foreign wars are a great way to distract to what’s happening domestically.

    Russia is rewriting their constitution... we just slowly chip away at ours.

    GeorgeBMacbaconstangviclauyycAnilu_777jony0spice-boycornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 24
    linkmanlinkman Posts: 1,002member
    If we all give up our freedom and liberty under the premise that we might catch a few criminals then this is the end of the US Constitution as we know it. There is simply no way that a backdoor will be kept under lock and key -- they always get out or get abused.
    baconstangviclauyycjony0olsbonobobspice-boycornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 24
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,486member
    I want this to be followed:

    “ Amendment IV. 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 to be seized.
    Barr and others would rather require every door to not have a lock, nothing be encrypted, and police, FBI and DOJ have free access to everything--except their own things. No laws about protecting citizens--except for them. This is what Hitler did--for those of you who slept during history class, I suggest you read about this and while you're at it read about J. Edgar Hoover. He has been reincarnated in William P. Barr. Both had/have total lack of respect for our constitution and laws.
    GeorgeBMacbaconstangdewmeviclauyycjony0spice-boycornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 24
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 9,207member
    If this were 1930's Germany Heinrich Muller, head of the Gestapo, would be demanding the same.   So why do "liberals have their panties all in a bunch?"
    baconstangviclauyycwatto_cobrabadmonk
  • Reply 11 of 24
    GeorgeBMacGeorgeBMac Posts: 9,207member
    The president is demanding that Apple install a backdoor on his iPhone. Perhaps he should rethink that position...

    Putin doesn't need a back door to that phone.  
    baconstangjony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 24
    bigmikebigmike Posts: 262member
    Now with 5G coming around, we'll be giving up our privacy and freedom a lot faster!
    cornchipwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 24
    dewmedewme Posts: 3,517member
    rob53 said:
    I want this to be followed:

    “ Amendment IV. 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 to be seized.
    Barr and others would rather require every door to not have a lock, nothing be encrypted, and police, FBI and DOJ have free access to everything--except their own things. No laws about protecting citizens--except for them. This is what Hitler did--for those of you who slept during history class, I suggest you read about this and while you're at it read about J. Edgar Hoover. He has been reincarnated in William P. Barr. Both had/have total lack of respect for our constitution and laws.
    I second the notion of discovering more about history, ideally from multiple perspectives. The sad thing is, I never slept through history class in grade school but we weren’t really taught anything useful about history, even contemporary history like WW1 and later. It was just names and dates and trivial simplifications of events. I wouldn’t even call it education because it didn’t impart any useful knowledge, unless you’re a Jeopardy contestant. 

    The glossing over of history in the US education system is really too bad. If you discover history as an adult you’ll quickly realize that history is the cultural DNA that makes us what we are today. Going back and reading about WW1 and WW2, or most any historical event, as an adult, is always an eye opening experience.

    There’s a tendency in the US to treat history as buried refuse of a more primitive time with far less enlightened and educated population, and that we’ve now all risen above what happened then during our current lifetimes as modern humans. That’s simply not true. The people, cultures, and collective consciousness that allowed the events and turmoil of WW2 to take place are still with us today, baked into the cultural DNA that influences everyday life. The technology in our lives has evolved tremendously in the past 65 years but we as humans have evolved very little, if at all. 


    randominternetpersonGeorgeBMacspice-boywatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 24
    Let’s build a beautiful, strongest and  biggest black door. 

    Then China and Russia Will want the access too. 


    Some people get their laptop and cellphone search by the immigrant officer when they enter US. Let’s see what will White House say when China do the same thing to American.
    dewmespice-boywatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 24
    davgregdavgreg Posts: 800member
    Barr is not a person any of us- regardless of political viewpoint - should be comfortable with as AG.

    He is of the small tribe that believes in the “Unitary Executive” which is about as opposed to the structure and roles of our government as could be imagined. He is authoritarian in nature and not to be trusted.
    jony0tmayGG1larryadewmedysamoriaspice-boywatto_cobrabadmonk
  • Reply 16 of 24
    linkman said:
    If we all give up our freedom and liberty under the premise that we might catch a few criminals then this is the end of the US Constitution as we know it. There is simply no way that a backdoor will be kept under lock and key -- they always get out or get abused.
    Heartbleed was apparently stolen from the FBI. Just saying. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 24
    It’s hilarious to see people here using this as an opportunity to complain about ‘this administration’ or specific people, seemingly having no memory or awareness that this issue is not limited to any particular political party or persons. Those who truly understand the dangers of a backdoor are the minority.

    If it weren’t for Apple the government would have gotten its way long before any of the current politicians were in office.

    I suspect most of the complainers here would cave to the government in a heartbeat if they feared their business could suffer.
    GG1watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 24
    Drain the Swamp this November!
    watto_cobraviclauyyc
  • Reply 19 of 24
    Barr is frightening on multiple levels, but what also should scare everyone across the board is the general lack of understanding of technology by Congress as a whole. Watching some of these people question Mark Zuckerberg was like watching someone's grampa try to figure out a television remote. So when Barr says "the Administration is looking into solving the access problem via legislative means" — be afraid. 
    dewmewatto_cobrabadmonk
  • Reply 20 of 24
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 3,186member
    I want this to be followed:

    “ Amendment IV. The right of the people to be securein 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 to be seized.
    That was thrown out with the introduction of the TSA and “constitutional rights-free zones”.
    cornchip
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