Encryption

Houston Police Chief Tries To Blame Encryption for Failure To Uncover Far-Right Cops

Meanwhile, he’s still trying to downplay corruption within his own force.

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Several police officers were among the mob that invaded the U.S. Capitol on January 6, a fact that has prompted some serious questions for law enforcement agencies about what they're doing to tackle the far-right presence in their departments. An article in Monday's Washington Post discusses how police might work to recognize problematic recruits before they're hired, and how to make it easier to discipline officers who express violent political attitudes—a challenge as cop-friendly arbitrators often intervene and force law enforcement agencies keep them on board.

Deep down in the Post story, the debate takes a comically absurdist twist. A former Houston police officer was among those charged with joining the violent mob at the Capitol. With the problem at his doorstep, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, who is also president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, decided to blame…encryption:

Acevedo also said anonymous online platforms on the "dark web" are making such investigations impossible, even for departments with sufficient resources. He expects the move away from public platforms like Facebook and Twitter to grow rapidly in response to the FBI arrests of those who rioted at the Capitol.

This month, Acevedo was asked by the House Oversight and Reform Committee to explain what actions police chiefs are taking, and responded by asking for help. For years, law enforcement officials have asked for passage of a federal law that would require such platforms to have a "back door" that law enforcement can access if they have "a legitimate investigative need and a court order" to gain entry.

"Congress's failure to act has enabled industry giants to flaunt the law and operate with impunity," Acevedo wrote in response.

Destroying encryption—and yes, mandatory backdoors would utterly destroy encryption—has been a pet cause of the U.S. Department of Justice for years. The invocation of the "dark web" as a boogeyman has been a constant recently too. Usually those who have demanded encryption back doors have insisted that it was necessary to fight child trafficking and terrorism.

It feels a bit desperate to invoke encryption as a reason why police departments don't know they've got some dangerous officers, particularly when—let's be frank—these guys weren't being all that secretive. As the Brennan Center for Justice notes, "These officers' racist activities are often known within their departments, but only result in disciplinary action or termination if they trigger public scandals."

Meanwhile, Acevedo has inadvertently revealed that people are right to worry that law enforcement would abuse encryption backdoors. Police leaders have traditionally insisted that they need these to make sure tech platforms and communication tools comply with legal warrants. But Acevedo is talking about using backdoors to investigate potential or current police officers without any specific connection to criminal activity. This isn't crimefighting; it's domestic surveillance. This is precisely why backdoors are dangerous. Worse yet: The whole premise of these investigations is that there are abusive, authoritarian cops out there who can't be trusted. This is supposed to be a reason to give officers more access to people's communications?

It's absolutely disheartening to see coverage of encrypted communications that suggests apps like Signal or Telegram are problems because they do not (and cannot) police content, therefore allowing extremists to communicate with each other. A tool can be used for good reasons or bad. We don't throw away hammers and move back into caves because they can also be used to beat somebody to death.

To reiterate for the umpteenth time, encryption protects us from criminals, hackers, and authoritarian governments. What Acevedo proposes won't help fight crime. It would actually make us more likely to be victims of crime. And that doesn't even get into what happens when some of our more violent governments across the world start using the backdoors precisely the way Acevedo describes, but against citizens trying to organize for more freedom, not just to cancel an election whose outcome they didn't like.

We shouldn't be surprised Acevedo that doesn't know what his cops are up to. For years, right under his nose, corrupt narcotics officers have been involved in a racket that involved falsifying records, which culminated in 2019 in a botched raid where officers killed a couple. As Reason's Jacob Sullum noted just this week, Acevedo is still trying to defend some of the officers involved and maintaining that there are not systemic problems in his department. What good would backdoors be to a man who refuses to acknowledge the evidence that's already in front of him?

NEXT: 'Incompetent Government Kills People,' Says Andrew Cuomo Unironically

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  1. “To reiterate for the umpteenth time, encryption protects us from criminals, hackers, and authoritarian governments.”

    Where in the Constitution does it say that you have a right to be protected from authoritarian governments?

    1. The ACLU, ADL, and SPLC have all riled that the Constitution is a white supremacist document and is no longer valid in our racially woke national. Together, we can move forward and become united by demonizing and dehumanizing whites and Republicans. Only then can we fulfill this nation’s destiny of becoming a multiracial paradise where Michelle Obama can feel proud to be an American.

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    2. The 2nd Amendment?

      1. Biden is putting a match to 2A (same as Nixon) by agreeing with foreign looter satrapies to limit infringe the right of America’s well-regulated militia to keep and bear arms of our choosing. Now is a good time to download and print out a copy of “Nuclear War Survival Skills” by Kresson Kearney, just in case. Oh, and thank The Antichoice Army of God for making girl-bullying a higher priority than national defense, thereby electing the Fifth Column.

        1. What’s well-regulated about it?

          It couldn’t even kill one congressman. What kind of retards attempt to murder legislators and fail?

          1. But enough about Bernie Bros, right?

            1. “I am permitted anything, as long as I can find someone who disagrees with me politically who did something bad too.”

              I hope you’re not teaching any children how morals work.

              1. You asked:
                “What kind of retards attempt to murder legislators and fail?”

                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2017_Congressional_baseball_shooting#Perpetrator

                I don’t condone attempted murder for any reason.

                1. That was a lone lunatic, not a political movement led by the president of the United States.

                  Not that I have anything nice to say about Bernie bros. Frankly I’m surprised one managed to put aside his depression and Cheetos long enough to get out of the house.

                  1. So we can agree that THAT type of retard attempts to murder legislators and fails, at least?

                    OK.

                    1. They also believe you can win the presidency by being the most socialist. Don’t ask me to explain them.

    3. The 4th and 5th amendments.

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    5. lol.. “a right to be protected from authoritarian governments”
      The whole darn thing……………….

    6. That right is contained in the word “free,” meaning uncoerced by initiation of force, in the First and Second Amendments the Christianofascists and Communofascists alike struggle to evade, subvert and abolish. “Congress shall make no laws restricting the freedom of production and trade” is the Atlas Shrugged response to the 18th Amendment–the Amendment that with the income tax caused the Great Depression. Learn it!

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    8. Several police officers were among the mob that invaded the U.S. Capitol on January 6, a fact that has prompted some serious questions for law enforcement agencies about what they’re doing to tackle the far-right presence in their departments…………..MORE DETAIL.

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  2. It’s absolutely disheartening to see coverage of encrypted communications that suggests apps like Signal or Telegram are problems because they do not (and cannot) police content, therefore allowing extremists to communicate with each other. A tool can be used for good reasons or bad. We don’t throw away hammers and move back into caves because they can also be used to beat somebody to death.

    Yeah, but we can’t oppress blue-collar white people if we don’t prevent them from organizing against their oppression.

  3. We shouldn’t be surprised Acevedo that doesn’t know what his cops are up to. For years, right under his nose, corrupt narcotics officers have been involved in a racket that involved falsifying records

    Ah, we all know everyone of the higherups knew about it and encouraged it. No need to play polite.

  4. Why should someone holding “far right” political views be barred from serving as a police officer? Should “far left” views be banned as well?

    The only people who think libertarians aren’t on the far right are about half of self-described libertarians and low-info conservatives who prioritize “conserving” the first Progressive Era.

    1. “Why should someone holding “far right” political views be barred from serving as a police officer?”

      Because people holding “far left” views are in power.

      Don’t pretend you don’t understand the rules in a banana republic.

    2. Because sometimes bad ideas need to die. Sometimes they cling to life too long.

      1. Make sure they engrave that on your tombstone.

        1. Nobody ever said good ideas were automatically the most successful, but stupid ideas do have a tendency of blowing up in people’s faces.

          When you’re talking specifically about revolutions that fail, you don’t remember the ideas because all of their adherents are usually destroyed.

          1. Democrats are the ONE’S making Revolutionary PLANS to fundamentally DESTROY/Change the USA.

              1. Yep – the freest, most successful society in recorded history and you want it to burn.

                Idiot.

      2. Ideas so good they need to be mandatory and enforced at gunpoint?

  5. Has everyone gone crazy?

    1. Yes. Yes they have.

  6. Privacy is white supremacy. Do you have something to hide?

    1. No, and yes.

    1. “Battle for the Soul of the Nation”? Holy shit!

    2. … meaning Christian National Socialists. Like Republican Christianofascists, communist socialists limit the horizon of reality to the universe of force-initiating looter altruists. Ye have met the enemy…

    3. You christianofascists (and the looter anarchists at the LNC) have managed to get Communist News Network to include “Libertarians” among the violent threats to Eymerrycan civilisashun. Nice work!

      1. Were you just dropped on your head?

        1. His ass cushioned the blow.

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  8. “a fact that has prompted some serious questions for law enforcement agencies about what they’re doing to tackle the far-right presence in their departments.”

    Presumably exactly what they are doing about tackling the far left presence in their departments. Anything else would be as illegal as gun control laws.

    1. Occasionally I catch myself thinking, “The establishment can’t _really_ be so stupid that they don’t realize they’re provoking a civil war.” Then I remember that, yes, they absolutely can be that stupid.

      1. They aren’t stupid since they’re doing it on purpose with the intent of destroying the country. It’s how all communist revolutions start.

      2. 25,000 troops say you’re the stupid one. Don’t shoot the messenger. I’m just telling you what everyone is seeing.

  9. How to conquer the USA and make it a Democratic National Socialist Country!
    1) Steal the election…
    2) Censor any dissent, evidence and criminalize it.
    3) Round up all American Patriots and throw them in Jail…
    4) Sign as many UN-Constitutional E.O. (s) as they can dream up including “erase the borders”, “legislate the weather”, and a many more CHASING UNICORNS authoritarian laws.
    5) Mark anyone supporting the U.S. Constitution as a Right-Wing Terrorist.
    6) …..????? Stuff the SCOTUS? Prosecute the GOP?

    1. Ban firearms, ammunition…

      1. You will never be able to defeat the US Armed Forces, no matter how much ammo you buy. They have drones. Forget looking them in the eye. They don’t even need to be in the same state to obliterate all you hold dear, if it really came to that.

        Federal policy should not be held eternally hostage by your ridiculous paranoid fantasy life.

        1. “You will never be able to defeat the US Armed Forces, no matter how much ammo you buy. They have drones. Forget looking them in the eye. They don’t even need to be in the same state to obliterate all you hold dear, if it really came to that.”

          How many times did you blow your load in the middle of typing this?

          1. I’ve never had a bigger war boner. Nobody’s ever actually declared war on my country in my lifetime until now. And they’re all my least favorite people anyway! How naive I was when I thought their biggest threat would be to science textbooks.

            1. “Nobody’s ever actually declared war on my country” — Which country is that Tony because we all know d*mn well your not referring to the USA which was founded on the U.S. Constitution.

              You’re probably referring to your Democratic National Socialist Country that DOESN’T even exist but in the minds of authoritarians like you. YOU and you’re filth is what has “declared war” on the USA with “Revolutionary Plans” to “Fundamentally DESTROY/Change the Nation.”

              1. Ackshully having economic policy differences isn’t what makes someone a traitor.

                Storming the US Capitol and attempting to overturn the presidential election, that’s some traitor shit.

                1. Frankly; I don’t believe they had any real intent on “overturn the presidential election”. Unarmed? Right, sure; you conspiracy theorist alarm nut-job.

                  2nd If that was there intent they’d have every right to do so as verified by the multitude of UN-Constitutional E.O.’s Biden has already signed.

        2. Do you think that ‘if it really came to that’ the entire military would simply fall in line behind whichever party was in power?

          Do you believe that they would fire upon, let alone carry out drone warfare, against a civilian uprising?

          1. I dunno, but they do swear an oath to do so. If I were them I’d probably consider which route lets me keep a legitimate claim to my paycheck. All bets are off should a Republican ever be allowed into the Oval Office again.

            Either way, gun nut delusions are irrelevant and shouldn’t be part of the policy conversation. I was more talking about a scenario where they shot first. Which they did.

            1. “swear an oath to do so” — Uphold the U.S. Constitution? We’ll let me clue you in; banning guns from the people, legislating the weather, putting price-tags on human labor, STEALING and redistributing peoples wealth….

              ISN’T in that “oath”.

              1. If you can’t handle losing policy debates sometimes, then perhaps democracy isn’t for you.

                1. Democracy isn’t for the USA at all!!!!! Especially not the Democratic National Socialist brand. So why are you even living here??? You belong in the CCP.

                  1. Oh okay in that case, here, have all the power.

  10. The solution is to decrypt and de-censor the Uranium Savages tribute to Houston Police Department qualified immunity, recorded Live at Soap Creek Saloon in Austin, Texas!
    “Smoke seegars, kick neegars in with bag-os
    Get laid off for a week maybe two-o
    Git outta that car it ain’t far to El Arroyo
    With a badge and a gun gonna have big fun On the Bayou!”

  11. “We don’t throw away hammers and move back into caves because they can also be used to beat somebody to death.”

    Shh! Don’t give them ideas. The UK already has knife control and it preparing to move on to forks.

  12. I have been a lawyer for over 4 decades. Encryption is essential to any privacy at all.
    The warrant requirement is merely a lump of asphalt in the road. In every jurisdiction there is a judge who will sign a Big Mac wrapper. Mention “trafficking” or “terrorism” and the number jumps. The federal agents and local cops always know who to call on.

  13. We should have had a clue that cops were not sending their best when you could look around and not find a single cop who wasn’t one McNugget away from a stroke.

    The neo-Nazis shouldn’t have been allowed to infiltrate the cops, but the cops shouldn’t have let them in. Fat lazy bastards.

    1. I’ve never met a fat Nazi in my life.

      1. I could have sworn you were just arguing with one in another thread . . .

      2. You should visit America sometime. The master race is not exactly keeping up their end of the bargain.

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      3. Here is one, but there aren’t many people still alive who met him: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hermann_G%C3%B6ring

  14. discusses how police might work to recognize problematic recruits before they’re hired, and how to make it easier to discipline officers who express violent political attitudes

    Just embrace the mind fuck ya’ll

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