Smartphone Encryption

U.S. Police Chiefs Demand Access to Encrypted Communications Following Paris Attacks

As the world heals from the recent terror attacks in Paris, we are witnessing a range of reactions from heads of state and media pundits. The corporate media is doing its part to repeat the mistakes witnessed following 9/11, including support for curtailing of the rights of Muslim-Americans and an increase in surveillance and violations of constitutional freedoms.

The attacks in Paris, which claimed the lives of 130 people, have ignited a call from police chiefs and prosecutors who seek to pass legislation which would give investigators access to encrypted communications in an attempt to stop terrorism.

On Tuesday, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and the National District Attorneys Association (NDAA) announced in a press release that they were joining forces to “press for immediate action to address this critical threat.” The statement reads:

[pull_quote_center]The proliferation of sophisticated encryption technology and other technological barriers have increasingly hindered law enforcement’s ability to lawfully access criminal and terrorist related communications.[/pull_quote_center]

The groups also state that encryption has led to numerous instances where police could not access encrypted information “that could have allowed them to successfully investigate and apprehend criminals or prevent terrorists from striking.”

Although there is not yet evidence that ISIS member used encrypted communication programs to plan their attacks, lawmakers are calling for legislation which would allow law enforcement to access a “backdoor” to encrypted data with a warrant.

The Information Technology Industry Council told the Hill that creating backdoors would “actually create vulnerabilities to be exploited by the bad guys, which would almost certainly cause serious physical and financial harm across our society and our economy.”

Still, the chiefs are seeking access to protected communications by updating laws such as the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. The groups state that they are committed to finding a solution “which balances the needs of the law enforcement community with protecting the public’s right to privacy.”

Last week, The Washington Post reported that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., an outspoken critic of encrypted communications, asked Congress to pass a law requiring the unencrypted content of any smartphone made or sold in the United States to be accessible to law enforcement officers with a search warrant. Vance said the changes were necessary following the Paris attacks.

“Every tip will be investigated, every lead will be followed, but every time one of those trails leads to an encrypted cellphone, it may go cold,” Vance stated.

Whether or not Americans continue to be granted the right to privacy depends on how willing we are to accept these radical changes in the name of security. How can we strike a balance between freedom and security while knowing that the U.S. government is funding the same terrorists whom we are supposed to fear? Are Americans willing to give up their rights once more in the hopes that the U.S. government will keep us safe?