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FBI Director Comey Demands “Backdoor” Access to Encrypted Data

In a stepped up effort to provide government spies with “backdoor” access to privately encrypted information, FBI Director James B. Comey gave testimony on July 8 to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and—along with Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates—to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In a prepared speech titled “Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence and the Challenges of Going Dark,” Comey argued that US laws should be updated to give the FBI, NSA and CIA special access mechanisms into all forms of data and electronic communication. “Going dark” refers to the inability of the state to monitor the communications of those who use encryption or other modern Internet privacy protection techniques.

In his joint statement with Yates to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Comey said, “Our goal at the Department is to work collaboratively and in good faith with interested stakeholders to explore approaches that protect the integrity of technology and promote strong encryption to protect privacy, while still allowing lawful access to information in order to protect public safety and national security.” In other words, the FBI and Obama administration want to establish a legal and technical framework—with the support of Congress and powerful corporate interests—to further undermine democratic rights by breaking into widely used security methods with special access technologies.

As he has done in the past, Comey stated that “going dark” was a life and death matter. He also specifically said that access to encrypted data was needed to monitor the communications of US citizens. This was the case because “upwards of 200 Americans have travelled or attempted to travel to Syria” and join the ranks of ISIL and “homegrown violent extremists who may aspire to attack the United States from within.”

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