Attorney General Barr says encrypted apps pose ‘grave threat’ to safety

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Attorney General William Barr delivered a blistering critique of encrypted messaging programs, saying they are preventing law enforcement from stopping killings, drug dealing and terrorism, and warned that time may be running out for the tech industry to make changes on its own. AG Barr said “warrant-proof” encryption was “enabling dangerous criminals to cloak their communications and activities behind an essentially impenetrable digital shield.” “As this debate has dragged on, and deployment of warrant-proof encryption has accelerated, our ability to protect the public from criminal and national security threats is rapidly deteriorating,” Barr said. “The status quo is exceptionally dangerous, it is unacceptable, and only getting worse.” The speech marks a forceful return by the Justice Department to the encryption debate it has shied away from in recent years, after a bruising fight between the FBI and Apple over the locked phone of a dead terrorism suspect. 

Sen Ron Wyden (D-OR) denounced AG Barr’s approach, arguing that the Trump administration is particularly untrustworthy when it comes to safeguarding civil liberties. “I expect that if we give the attorney general and this president the unprecedented power to break encryption across the board, and burrow into the most intimate details of Americans’ lives, they will abuse those powers,” said Sen Wyden, citing AG Barr’s authorization in the early 1990s of a sweeping bulk surveillance program, and President Donald Trump’s public comments about his political foes. “What senator in their right mind would give these men the authority to break into the phone of every single American?” Sen Wyden asked in a speech on the Senate floor. “Imagine what kind of information they could gather on their political opponents.”

Attorney General Barr says encrypted apps pose ‘grave threat’ to safety Barr Revives Debate Over ‘Warrant-Proof’ Encryption (Wall Street Journal)