He is proposing mandating a back door in pretty much every form of communication on the internet:
Federal law enforcement and national security officials are preparing to seek sweeping new regulations for the Internet, arguing that their ability to wiretap criminal and terrorism suspects is “going dark” as people increasingly communicate online instead of by telephone.
Essentially, officials want Congress to require all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct “peer to peer” messaging like Skype — to be technically capable of complying if served with a wiretap order. The mandate would include being able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages.
The bill, which the Obama administration plans to submit to lawmakers next year, raises fresh questions about how to balance security needs with protecting privacy and fostering innovation. And because security services around the world face the same problem, it could set an example that is copied globally.
This would mean that if you had two people communicating handling their own encryption, which a little program called PGP has been doing for decades, they would have to make it illegal.
Obama, a former lecturer on constitutional law, should know better. He is operating under the assumption that because he’s a good guy,* it’s OK for him to have this power, which is, of course completely antithetical to the most basic foundation of the constitution.
Some pertinent quotes:
But as an example, one official said, an investigation into a drug cartel earlier this year was stymied because smugglers used peer-to-peer software, which is difficult to intercept because it is not routed through a central hub. Agents eventually installed surveillance equipment in a suspect’s office, but that tactic was “risky,” the official said, and the delay “prevented the interception of pertinent communications.”
And, of course, there is nothing to prevent these guys from using similar software, and there is already a work around, as the official have admitted.
Even worse is this argument:
Moreover, according to several other officials, after the failed Times Square bombing in May, investigators discovered that the suspect, Faisal Shahzad, had been communicating with a service that lacked prebuilt interception capacity. If he had aroused suspicion beforehand, there would have been a delay before he could have been wiretapped.
- We had that there was a plan afoot.
- We had no clue that Shahzad was involved with the Taliban.
- We had no clue that the Taliban was looking at doing anything in the US, though the fact that we are dropping missiles on men, women, and children in their country might give them some motivation.
- Having this capability would not have allowed us to determine any of the above.
- However, if we had somehow discovered that this guy was hooking up with terrorists, it would have been easier to wiretap him.
There is also the fact that if you create a back door, it becomes a point of vulnerability for every hacker, crook, terrorist, or despot out there:
Steven M. Bellovin, a Columbia University computer science professor, pointed to an episode in Greece: In 2005, it was discovered that hackers had taken advantage of a legally mandated wiretap function to spy on top officials’ phones, including the prime minister’s.
“I think it’s a disaster waiting to happen,” he said. “If they start building in all these back doors, they will be exploited.”
Why there is such a determination by the Obama administration to embrace and extend every wrong-headed and un-American policy thought up by Bushand His Evil Minions™ is beyond me.
Doubling down on failed and expensive polices does not help.
* To the degree that someone who feels that he can be king and order the murder of American citizens for secret reasons can be considered a “good guy”.