Encryption and Safety

Senators Richard Burr (R, NC) and Dianne Feinstein (C, CA), in their op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, demonstrated their lack of understanding of the relationship between security and safety.  Their piece’s title, Encryption Without Tears, illustrates their basic misunderstanding of the inherent tension between the two, here encryption and safety.

In an increasingly digital world, strong encryption of devices is needed to prevent criminal misuse of data.  But technological innovation must not mean placing individuals or companies above the law.

Neither can technological backdoors be allowed to place government above the law.

Over the past year the two of us have explored the challenges associated with criminal and terrorist use of encrypted communications.

But they’ve apparently spent not a red sou on exploring the challenges of a private citizens or private enterprises need for and use of encryption to protect themselves from criminal, and terrorist, and yes government misbehaviors.

Then they cited a couple of examples to illustrate their thesis; I’ll cite one of those below, because it so clearly illustrate the opposite and some interlinkage of the Left’s position on American safety (and disappointingly, Burr’s lack of thought).

…the Islamic State-inspired terrorist attack last year in Garland, Texas.  FBI Director Jim Comey said the attackers “exchanged 109 messages with an overseas terrorist” the morning of the shooting, but the FBI cannot access those messages to determine the exact role of Islamic State in the shooting and how to help prevent future attacks.

There’s no doubt that being able to read those messages would have been very useful.  However, Burr and Feinstein carefully neglect to mention that the Islamic State-inspired terrorist attack was stopped in its tracks and the terrorists killed on the spot by armed American citizens who were alert, on the scene, and unafraid to act.  The San Bernardino attack, for which Comey went to court to try to force Apple to break its own security algorithms (under the false claim that Apple’s efforts were absolutely necessary, mind you—until the FBI broke the algorithms with other means), occurred in a by-government-mandate gun-free zone, which ensured that only the terrorists had guns.  We’re left to speculate on how far the casualty list would have been reduced had the victim population been allowed to be armed themselves.  As the Left likes to say, though, “If it saves only one life….”

Yet Burr and Feinstein are “circulating” a draft bill:

The draft proposal requires a person or a company—when served with a court order—to provide law enforcement with information (in readable form) or appropriate technical assistance that is responsive to the judicial request.  This will enable law enforcement to conduct investigations using the communications involved in criminal and terrorist activities.

Our draft bill wouldn’t impose a one-size-fits-all solution on all covered entities….

The judicial request.  Carefully vague.  It may be the case, though, that their bill wouldn’t impose a one-size-fits-all solution.  No, it’ll just require an ex post back door to be created, one that’s usable for future “situations,” too, and the aggregation of which will allow government snooping.

It’s just this sort of Government arrogance, or even merely disingenuousness, against which we have such extensive protections against overreaching government men.  The government isn’t even pretending to act in good faith on this matter, as Comey’s behavior in that Apple case demonstrates.

Private encryption, with no backdoors, and an armed population.  That permits an optimum mix of security and safety and encryption with a minimum of tears.  Backdoors on Government demand permits the least mix of security and safety, broken encryption guaranteed to generate tears.

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