FBI Director James Comey says encryption is hurting national security and helping ISIS. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) is calling BS—and using a rap lyrics site to do it.
Comey spent Wednesday in front of Congress, arguing that law enforcement agencies face a growing threat from people who use encrypted messages—even though the government couldn’t say how big the threat actually is now. He also gave a preview of his argument in a post on Monday at Lawfare, an influential blog on national security law. “There is simply no doubt that bad people can communicate with impunity in a world of universal strong encryption,” he wrote. “Part of my job is make sure the debate is informed by a reasonable understanding of the costs.”
Wyden, a loud and frequent critic of government surveillance, apparently didn’t find Comey’s arguemnt quite that reasonable. So, using Genius, a popular site for annotating and explaining song lyrics, his office tore apart the FBI chief’s blog post with some snarky notes.
“Security doors and safes also make it more difficult to access a person’s possessions, but Director Comey has not proposed banning wall safes or weakening locks,” said one. “That would rightly be seen as laughable.”
Another pointed out that cybersecurity experts think “backdoors”—purposeful security flaws that would allow the government to read encrypted messages—are actually terrible for security, giving criminals and foreign hackers the same potential access to private data as the US government.
“Universal strong encryption will protect Americans’ personal information AGAINST criminals, foreign governments and those who would use that data to do our country harm,” Wyden wrote. “It’s time to stop attacking the technology and start focusing on real solutions to the real threats facing our nation.”