Ex-NSA chief thinks the government is dead wrong in asking Apple for a backdoor
AP Photos/Susan Walsh
In an interview with New America, retired Gen. Michael Hayden said "American security is better served with unbreakable end-to-end encryption than it would be served with one or another front door, backdoor, side door, however you want to describe it."It's a position that's in stark contrast to many leaders in government who have come out against encryption technology, which shields people from having their calls, emails, or texts spied upon. Some, like FBI director James Comey, have called on technology companies to implement a "backdoor" with only the government holding the key, in the case of an investigation.
"That probably imposes an unfair cost on law enforcement. So if I were Jim Comey, I might be saying the same things that Jim Comey is," said Hayden, who previously served as chief of the NSA and CIA. "But you know, we are not required to organize our entire national life around the needs of American law enforcement."Encryption has plenty of legitimate uses: It keeps data secure for companies, protects the work of journalists and activists, and even keeps military secrets safe from the bad guys. Most of the stores you visit online are encrypting your credit card data so it can't be stolen, and corporate leaders sometimes talk over secure phones so their intellectual property will not be stolen by rivals.
But like anything, it can be misused by bad actors."I get it, that from time to time it will make law enforcement more difficult," Hayden said. "But when you're looking at American security writ large, I think America is a more secure, safer place with encryption that doesn't have a door that anyone can try to exploit." Hayden's view is also notable in that, arguably, encryption makes the job of his former workplace tougher as well. Tasked with intercepting foreign intelligence, the NSA employs some of the best hackers in the world and runs highly-advanced supercomputers to try and break through encrypted communications.
Still, his point is echoed by those in Silicon Valley who may be disturbed by the encryption usage of criminals and terrorists, but ultimately argue that the technology is of little value once a backdoor is in place.
"I don't know anyone who says 'I love what ISIS is doing' [with encryption technology]," Anthony Pompliano, a former product manager at Facebook, told Tech Insider last year. "But at the same time, I don't know anyone who is saying we should violate people's civil rights to stop that."
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