The FBI Can Already Crack Terrorists’ Phones—So Why Does It Want a Back Door?
A panel discussion on the report raised two additional points worth mentioning in this context. First, while the working group acknowledged that creating a secure means for law enforcement to access data at rest is theoretically possible, they all agreed that no acceptable solution currently exists, undermining Barr’s assertion that Apple could safely enable backdoors for law enforcement if it wanted to. Second, one working group member raised serious concerns about current legislation aimed at undermining encryption. The act is focused on curbing online child abuse — which all involved in this debate agree is a worthy goal — and would create a panel chaired by the Attorney General to determine best practices to which internet service providers must adhere in order to retain liability protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Jim Baker, who served as FBI general counsel from 2014 to 2017 and was formerly a strong proponent of enabling law enforcement to access encrypted data, noted that a panel focused solely on combatting child abuse could easily overlook the value of strong encryption. Baker has noted elsewhere that cyberattacks increasingly pose a “profound and overarching threat” to our national security, joining former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden in voicing such concerns.