Privacy

Legislators Rebuke Officials Who Complain About Encryption

"Just follow the damn Constitution," Ted Lieu suggests.

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Senate Homeland Security Committee

Cops, prosecutors, and spies do not like encryption (when other people use it), because it makes their jobs harder. The appropriate response to that concern is: Too bad. Lots of things, including locks, safes, window blinds, and 3D printing, make law enforcement and intelligence gathering harder. That does not mean people should not be able to use those things. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies have no right to demand that the world be rearranged to facilitate their work. Yet Congress often seems to think they do, as reflected in laws such as the Communications Assistance in Law Enforcement Act (CALEA).

CALEA requires telecommunications carriers to make sure their customers' conversations and correspondence can be monitored by the government. As the Federal Communications Commission explains, Congress enacted CALEA in 1994 because "emerging technologies such as digital and wireless communications were making it increasingly difficult for law enforcement agencies to execute authorized surveillance." Given legislators' usual willingness to accommodate such concerns by imposing mandates on private companies, it is refreshing to see two members of Congress, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), challenge law enforcement agencies' complaints about encryption.

During a Senate hearing on Wednesday, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson complained that "the marketplace is demanding deeper and deeper encryption into places where the warrant authority of the government does not extend." He also worried that "with encryption there are communications…records of which are simply not being maintained because of the added security that is being put in place because of the privacy demands that exist in the marketplace."

Paul said those "privacy demands" are an understandable response to revelations about government snooping, such as the National Security Agency's mass collection of phone records and warrantless surveillance of Americans' communications with people in other countries:

The real culprit is government. You've been so overzealous in vacuuming up all of our records without a legitimate warrant that…it's cost the United States billions of dollars in the sense that people in Europe and around the world don't want our stuff…because they're worried that the government's going to stick stuff in there and that you'll have backdoor access…

So it's been a big problem for our companies selling things worldwide, but it's a response to a government that didn't have, I think, a real sense of decency towards privacy. The companies are [responding] to your behavior.

House Subcommittee on Information Technology

On the same day, Lieu issued a similar rebuke to Suffolk County, Massachusetts, District Attorney Daniel Conley, who told a House subcommittee that "when unaccountable corporate interests place crucial evidence beyond the legitimate reach of our courts, they are in fact placing those who rape, defraud, assault and even kill in a position of profound advantage over victims and society." As Cyrus Farivar notes at Ars Technica, Lieu rejected the "offensive" implication that anyone who offers encryption is a criminal accomplice:

It's a fundamental misunderstanding of the problem. Why do you think Apple and Google are doing this? It's because the public is demanding it. People like me: privacy advocates. A public does not want an out-of-control surveillance state. It is the public that is asking for this. Apple and Google didn't do this because they thought they would make less money. This is a private-sector response to government overreach.

Then you make another statement that somehow these companies are not credible because they collect private data. Here's the difference: 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. Because the NSA, your colleagues, have essentially violated the Fourth Amendment rights of every American citizen for years by seizing all of our phone records, by collecting our Internet traffic, that is now spilling over to other aspects of law enforcement. And if you want to get this fixed, I suggest you write to NSA: The FBI should tell the NSA, stop violating our rights. And then maybe you might have much more of the public on the side of supporting what law enforcement is asking for.

Then let me just conclude by saying I do agree with law enforcement that we live in a dangerous world. And that's why our founders put in the Constitution of the United States—that's why they put in the Fourth Amendment. Because they understand that an Orwellian, overreaching federal government is one of the most dangerous things that this world can have.

Ted Lieu is my new hero. The only reservation I have is that he should not have left the backdoor open to imposing limits on encryption if the FBI, NSA, et al. promise to behave themselves from now on. People have a right to use encryption even if that means some information is beyond the reach of warrant-wielding government agents.

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  1. Second time I’ve seen this Lieu dude mentioned today. He’s definitely piqued my interest, especially given the letter next to his name and the constituency he represents (Malibu, Santa Monica, Marina del Rey, et al)

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  2. This just in: California Democrat curses at Constitution

  3. given the letter next to his name and the constituency he represents (Malibu, Santa Monica, Marina del Rey, et al)

    The recall petitions are at the printers.

    1. I wouldn’t bet against that!

      1. Surveillance is an issue most Democrats find an esoteric but not necessarily worrisome fixation for politicians to have. Witness what befell Lieberman: his vociferous anti-domestic surveillance position couldn’t win him reelection, and so he adjusted to an ultimately fatal run on the war on women. Democrats aren’t terribly concerned with domestic surveillance, although they’re nominally averse to it. It’s a truncheon to bring out when Republicans control the White House, but their party is so thoroughly affirmed in their phony anti-war, anti-spying positions that it’s not generally worth their time.

        1. Lieberman isn’t a good example. There were too many other things going on with that to blame it on his surveillance stance.

          1. But that’s the point, even being one of the few prominent voices remaining on the left didn’t help him; he had to change his premise. I’m not arguing that he shouldn’t have lost because of it but that he couldn’t have won on it. Lefties just don’t care enough. It’s icky to be seen criticizing government for an issue that devolves almost entirely on individual rights, especially with Republicans like Paul and Cruz making similar complaints. If this had a racial or sexual element, you can bet dollars to dildos they’d be all over it. Since individual privacy is a philosophically libertarian position, they’re reluctant to pick it up while their party holds the executive.

  4. In case anyone wants to join in, I just got word today of this campaign:

    https://www.ifeelnaked.org/

    feel free to join in as you desire. These guys also support Net Neutrality, but I still think it’s a great campaign.

    1. Quit Body Shaming me! My nakedness is beautiful!

  5. I’m amazed there’s a Democrat who believes a) The Constitution should be followed, b) that the Feds made a problem worse, and c) that market mechanisms are rationally responding to idiotic government policy.

    Good on him. I’m sure he’s probably bad on a whole lot economic issues, but the Democratic Party would be vastly better than it currently is if there were more Ted Lieu/Ron Wyden Democrats.

    1. Actually, he only believes the constitution should be followed on issues he agrees with. At least according to his official webpage, he’s straight D on all economic issues.

      http://www.tedlieu.com/issues

      And he showed so much promise.

      *Sigh*

      1. So he’s basically another Ron Wyden. I can live with that…a Wyden-type Democrat in California is still an improvement. Granted, that’s a low bar, but you take what you can get sometimes.

    2. He didn’t get the memo that national security overreach stopped being a concern for the party after 2008.

  6. Here’s a legitimately dumb first amendment question: how do the feds get to dictate how I express myself if I choose to do so through a mathematical algorithm? I get that it’s an issue of obstructing justice if I’ve encrypted evidence that might be used against me, but as a matter of course how is it a federal agency can declare certain forms of encryption out of bounds?

    1. Because you lack the resources to oppose them.

    2. Because your betters get to decide what expression is protected, that’s how!

      Basically, the freedoms of expression and association in the First Amendment more or less embody your fundamental right to do what you want so long as you’re not hurting or compelling anyone else. That we don’t respect those fundamental rights anymore is the source of basically all gov’t overreach.

    3. That’s how Zimmerman exported crypto in the days when ITAR still ruled. He printed it in books.

    4. Because of a fires in theaters or something.

    5. Because FY, TW.

  7. He should add “No, fuck you, cut spending” to his “Just follow the damn Constitution.”

  8. he should not have left the backdoor open to imposing limits on encryption

    Impose doesn’t mean what it used to.

  9. On the same day, Lieu issued a similar rebuke to Suffolk County, Massachusetts, District Attorney Daniel Conley, who told a House subcommittee that “when unaccountable corporate interests place crucial evidence beyond the legitimate reach of our courts, they are in fact placing those who rape, defraud, assault and even kill in a position of profound advantage over victims and society.

    This is pretty much the perfect distillation of the SJW quasi-fascist vision for the relationship between state and citizen, don’t you think?

    1. I like the naked attempt at emotional appeal to get their point across and make those that oppose them look like monsters.

      Classic SJW tactics.

    2. Argumentum ad rapists is quickly becoming my favorite logical fallacy.

      “Men on campus should have due process rights.”

      “BUT WHAT ABOUT RAPISTS”

      “I don’t think the government should be able to get into all of our personal correspondence.”

      “BUT RAPISTS”

      “Innocent until proven guilty.”

      “MERR GERD! THE RAPISTS”

      1. damn you farging bastages for beating me to the same point

      2. There’s no such thing as *accused* rapists, just rapists. #listenandbelieve

  10. Legislators Rebuke Officials Who Complain About Encryption…

    …and vote to restrict it anyway?

  11. Without verifiable strong encryption, online sales go out the damned window, full stop.

  12. they are in fact placing those who rape, defraud, assault and even kill in a position of profound advantage over victims and society.
    .
    and society
    Society is the victim, no doubt about it.

  13. “Massachusetts, District Attorney Daniel Conley, who told a House subcommittee that “when unaccountable corporate interests place crucial evidence beyond the legitimate reach of our courts, they are in fact placing those who rape“….

    Jesus christ, the sjw bullshit is infectious. magic words!

    1. They had to claw it back from the environmentalists first, who were misusing the term for “raping Gaia” and all that. The left had a better use for the word.

  14. Then let me just conclude by saying I do agree with law enforcement

    Then you agree with terrorists. Fuck you for being such a goddamned chicken-shit.

  15. The reason Congress bends over backwards to accommodate cops and spies is because regular people, victims of the cops and spies, are never invited to testify before Congress.

    1. …and because the cops and spies will paint the congresscritter as soft on crime, or soft on terrorism, if he doesn’t tow the lion.

  16. “Ted Lieu is my new hero. “

    i confess, for a californian, that’s pretty badass.

    i bet he’s a total shithead on guns though, right? Right.

    1. Yep. “Government gets guns, not surveillance.”

  17. When you’ve lost the California Democrats…

  18. He used the word “damn” in exasperation. The constitution is ignored so often that it seems merely advisory at best. Even democrats can be amazed and dumbfounded by the neglect and often contempt for their spelled out duties.

  19. The first paragraph really sums it all up perfectly.

  20. No Friday Funnies again? Has Reason run out of the peanuts used to nourish it’s starving artists?

  21. “A public does not want an out-of-control surveillance state.”

    Too little, too late.

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