Going 4 for 5 On Our Predictions? FBI Pushes to Continue War on Encryption

It seems that our words have become downright prophetic at this point. The FBI director is demanding America continues the war on encryption.

Back in January, we posted an article on what we think the Biden presidency could mean for digital rights. It was speculative on our part and a fun exercise on what may or may not happen under Biden’s watch. Today, the accuracy of that article is becoming downright prophetic at this point. We should point out that the article was published on January 20th.

First, we aligned ourselves with the suggestion that Biden will very likely end the war on TikTok. That prediction came true by February 13th as word came down that the threat of a TikTok ban is effectively dead.

After that, we predicted that Biden would get the process started on restoring the badly needed network neutrality laws. That effectively came true on January 22nd when he appointed Jessica Rosenworcel to the FCC.

While all those predictions were positive, we also had negative predictions as well. From there, we predicted that the Biden Administration would restart the war on Section 230. That came true on February 7th when Democrats tabled the SAFE TECH Act.

The last prediction we made was that the administration would mean another bad copyright bill that would further tighten copyright laws. That hasn’t happened yet. Now, we are learning this is the sole prediction that hasn’t come true.

The other prediction was that there would be a restart on the war on encryption. A Washington Post article is saying that the FBI director is calling for a renewed war on encryption:

The head of the FBI renewed calls for special law enforcement access to encrypted technologies in response to recent acts of domestic extremism.

FBI director Christopher A. Wray and other FBI officials made the argument to senators over two days of hearings about law enforcement efforts leading up the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. They highlighted the use of the technology by the pro-Trump mob that stormed the Capitola as some of the perpetrators used encrypted technology to plan and execute the assault.

The warnings come as Capitol Police warn of a possible plot by a militant group to today breach the Capitol, Tom Jackman, Matt Zapotosky, Michael Brice-Saddler and Craig Timberg report. Some followers of the extremist ideology QAnon falsely claim that former president Donald Trump will return to the White House on March 4. While online chatter around the event is less than that around the Jan. 6 attack, researchers aren’t ruling out smaller attacks being planned on encrypted channels, my colleagues report.

Wray’s first major jab at encryption under the Biden administration is just the latest marker in a years-long struggle between tech companies and the government over whether law enforcement should have special access to secure data.

Wray and other law enforcement leaders charged that “end-to-end” encryption limits their ability to access critical evidence and detect crimes. That risk has gotten worse as more and more tech companies adopt the technology, which protects data so only the sender can access it. No third party, including the tech company offering the service that sent the data, has access to the material.

If Democrat’s fall for this, it’ll mean that we are one prediction away from a clean sweep in our January 20th article. In that case, it’ll probably be a new piece of legislation similar to the universally condemned EARN IT legislation which died as the last session ended.

Up to that point, various spy agencies struggled to find a reason why such legislation is needed. They claimed, among other things, that iPhones were uncrackable (they weren’t), encrypted messaging was on the rise with bad actors are going dark (didn’t happen), and that tech companies can easily innovate and create back doors while keeping their customers safe (which is technologically impossible). Authorities tried to use several examples where such legislation would have made their jobs easier, but failed to come up with one compelling example. As Donald Trump’s induced chaos took over the airwaves, the debate seemingly fell into the background and the legislation stalled.

Now, they are trying to use the January 6th terrorist attack as their main push to ban all effective encryption in the country.

As well all know, encryption plaid such a little role, if any, that such legislation would have never made a difference in the first place. Trump supporters simply posted their activities publicly, effectively handing evidence against them over to authorities in the process. Authorities admitted at the time that they were thrilled with the amount of evidence they were able to obtain by simply using social media. Some would even go so far as to say that the amount and quality of evidence just doesn’t get much better then that. Pictures and video’s had geo-location information, faces weren’t covered, and the perpetrators practically drew a map to their houses saying “come and get me now!”

What’s more is that, as we noted very recently, authorities had no problem uncovering a March 4th plot as well. That plot essentially fizzled but it showed that authorities aren’t actually having difficulties at all tracking these threats.

Now, out of the blue, the FBI director is seemingly trying to change the story by saying that bad actors are turning to encryption and it’s getting difficult to track the activity of extremists. It’s quite bizarre that there would suddenly be this alternative story popping out of nowhere and now there is magically this urgent need to ban effective encryption in the US. At this stage, it’s just not that believable.

Spy agencies have been working for years to try and make the Internet less secure. They’ve thrown just about every justification they could at the wall hoping something will stick. Well, this latest lob involves saying that they need to end effective encryption because of the January 6th terrorist attack. Like the other attempts, it’s just not sticking.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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