Hillary Clinton Continues To Say Ridiculous Things About Encryption… Without Ever Taking A Real Position
from the because-politics dept
Hillary Clinton certainly has a reputation as a true “politician” — able to say things without actually saying things. And it appears that’s absolutely true when it comes to questions about encryption and backdoors. Back in November, she made comments that pretty clearly suggested that she supported undermining encryption, even as her tech advisers flipped out in arguing she said no such thing. Of course, it was all political tap dancing, signalling things to both sides without actually being pinned down on anything. The key was after saying that encryption was “a particularly tough problem” she said:
So we need Silicon Valley not to view government as its adversary. We need to challenge our best minds in the private sector to work with our best minds in the public sector to develop solutions that will both keep us safe and protect our privacy.
But, of course, that’s the exact same language that FBI Director James Comey had used previously in arguing for a backdoor — that if only Silicon Valley would “work with” the FBI and put its “brightest minds” to the task, there must be some way to create a backdoor. But, again, that ignores the real problem that technologists have raised over and over again. The problem is not in creating a backdoor. Anyone can create a backdoor. The problem is creating a backdoor that only the “good guys” can use. You automatically undermine the safety and security of encryption for everyone when you create a backdoor. That’s the problem.
But Clinton is trying to work both sides here. She says stuff that’s a dog whistle to law enforcement types about backdooring encryption, without ever actually admitting she supports backdooring encryption. She later doubled down on these dog whistle statements in a TV interview on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos.
And then, the issue came up again at this past weekend’s Democratic Presidential debate, where Clinton again made bizarre comments that didn’t really say anything directly, but sure suggested some strange beliefs. From coverage at DailyDot:
Clinton first said that she was “very pleased” to see Obama administration officials meet with tech executives to discuss ways to counter violent extremism online—a meeting at which the more contentious encryption debate was also raised. Debate moderator Andrea Mitchell then pointed out that the tech companies had rebuffed the administration’s demands at that meeting. In response, Clinton said, “That is not what I’ve heard. Let me leave it at that.”
That’s an interesting claim. There was plenty of discussion about the meeting, and in particular, the fact that the encryption issue was only raised because Comey refused to participate if that wasn’t on the agenda. And multiple parties have revealed that the “discussion” on encryption appeared to focus on Apple CEO Tim Cook berating the White House officials for not taking a clear public stance on supporting strong encryption.
Given that, Clinton’s “that’s not what I heard” statement sounds like complete bullshit. Dailydot asked the Clinton campaign for more details, and in typical political fashion, the campaign continued tapdancing:
Asked which meeting topic she was referring to, a Clinton campaign spokesman said in an email, “As you can see from the transcript, she was referring to general intelligence cooperation, not specifically about encryption.” But public reporting suggests that the tech companies did rebuff the administration, and the spokesman declined to say where Secretary Clinton was getting her information to the contrary. He also declined to say whether Secretary Clinton supported backdoors.
Of course, none of the other candidates on the stage with Clinton were any good on the issue either. Martin “who’s that third guy on the stage?” O’Malley made it clear he didn’t even know what the debate was about with his comment:
I believe whether it’s a back door or a front door that the American principle of law should still hold that our federal government should have to get a warrant, whether they want to come through the back door or your front door.
And I also agree, Lester, with Benjamin Franklin, who said, no people should ever give up their privacy or their freedoms in a promise for security.
So we’re a collaborative people. We need collaborative leadership here with Silicon Valley and other bright people in my own state of Maryland and around the NSA that can actually figure this out.
But there are certain immutable principles that will not become antique things in our country so long as we defend our country and its values and its freedoms. And one of those things is our right to be secure in our homes, and our right to expect that our federal government should have to get a warrant.
I also want to the say that while we’ve made some progress on the Patriot Act, I do believe that we need an adversarial court system there. We need a public advocate. We need to develop jurisprudence so that we can develop a body of law that protects the privacy of Americans in the information and digital age.
Everyone’s focused on that first sentence. Except that no one’s debating the warrant question. It’s about whether or not the backdoors should exist. And O’Malley doesn’t even touch that, though he does add in another “Silicon Valley” and “bright people” can work with the NSA to “figure this out.” Again, that totally misses the point.
And then there was Bernie Sanders, who tried to make it about the big bad internet companies and then, again, suggested that if only Silicon Valley worked on the problem, it could all be figured out:
SANDERS: OK. I just wanted to add, in the previous question, I voted against the USA Patriot Act for many of the reasons that Governor O’Malley mentioned. But it is not only the government that we have to worry about, it is private corporations.
You would all be amazed, or maybe not, about the amount of information private companies and the government has in terms of the Web sites that you access, the products that you buy, where you are this very moment.
And it is very clear to me that public policy has not caught up with the explosion of technology. So yes, we have to work with Silicon Valley to make sure that we do not allow ISIS to transmit information…
HOLT: But in terms of lone wolves, the threat, how would you do it?
SANDERS: Right. What we have got to do there is, among other things, as I was just saying, have Silicon Valley help us to make sure that information being transmitted through the Internet or in other ways by ISIS is, in fact, discovered.
But I do believe we can do that without violating the constitutional and privacy rights of the American people.
Again, that’s got nothing to do with the debate at hand. Also, if the question was about “lone wolves” then those are people who are not actually communicating with ISIS.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a single presidential candidate who actually understood this particular issue?