The House Intelligence Committee hosted a hearing on Thursday on the topic of worldwide threats with the FBI, CIA, and NSA Directors all in attendance.
While fielding questions from members of Congress on the topic of Apple and terrorism, FBI Director James Comey was typically evasive, refusing to give any straightforward answers.
It was toward the end, when CIA Director John Brennan and NSA Deputy Director Rick Ledgett were asked about how encryption technology allows terrorists to “go dark,” that things got interesting.
As Gizmodo notes, “’going dark’ has become an intelligence community slogan, a phrase to describe what happens when it has the legal means to search and intercept digital communications but can’t technically do it because of security protections.”
Brennan responded by saying that, “The ability of these terrorists to communicate with one another that makes it very difficult to uncover has been increasing. It’s very frustrating but very concerning. They follow the press, they follow these discussions.”
Ledgett added to this, claiming that, “we see a growing number of [foreign intelligence targets], because of what’s in the press about the value of encryption, moving towards [the security of communication].”
This idea that the media is responsible for terrorist recognizing the value of encryption is ridiculous—it is the media’s job to report on these issues, to expose what is occurring. If the media censors itself due to fear that terrorists will pick up on the idea that encryption is valuable, then that only harms the American people.
The value of encryption is not a new notion, either. Terrorists have not picked this up from media outlets or the press—that simplistic explanation does not nearly encompass the complexity of the situation.
Gizmodo clearly states this: “Neither intelligence leader recognized how members of their own communities might also benefit from media reports about encryption. In fact, neither Brennan or Ledgett bothered to acknowledge that their own agencies rely on encryption as a crucial security measure.”
Both Brennan and Ledgett appeared to consider the idea of encryption from a very parochial perspective, and that’s not a good look for our top two intelligence leaders.
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