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Apr
20

The FBI’s Stance on Encrypted Communications

From: The Wall Street Journal

AMY HESS: Imagine an America where federal, state, and municipal law enforcement agencies cannot access critical communications, even when legally authorized to do so. Imagine a time when the police cannot pursue logical leads in electronic data to rescue a missing child, identify the co-conspirators of a massive fraud scheme, or obtain relevant evidence of an elected official’s public corruption. Imagine the injustice if a suspected criminal can hide incriminating communications without fear of discovery by the police, or if information that could exonerate an innocent party is inaccessible.

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What we seek is nothing more than preserving our ability to exercise judicially-supervised access to information necessary to a continuing, authorized investigation. When law enforcement presents an order signed by a judge — who requires us to fully explain and justify why we believe someone is engaged in activity which poses a threat to public safety — the recipient must be able to quickly locate, identify, and provide the relevant data in a usable form.

Some would have you believe that privacy, security, and public safety are irreconcilable. We disagree. We believe private industry, academia, the American public, and our government can work together to strike the proper balance by putting in place the appropriate combination of laws, regulations, procedures, technology, and oversight to ensure meaningful and secure access to electronic devices and communications for law enforcement when authorized by a judge. We welcome the discussion of how to continue to ensure civil liberties while protecting the safety of the American people in this dynamic new context.

Amy Hess is the executive assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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