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Interview With CIA Director John Brennan, and Encryption (@dklaidman)

Daniel Klaidman at Yahoo News interviewed CIA Director John Brennan. An excerpt pertaining to technology companies and encryption:

Are you frustrated with some of the technology companies’ [reluctance] to take down extremist content from their sites? You testified recently about Twitter’s decision to block intelligence agencies from using its data-mining service, Dataminr.

I’m frustrated that [in certain parts of] the private sector, there’s insufficient understanding of just how serious the threat is to national security. Believe me, people here at CIA have fought their whole lives to protect liberties. [Censorship] is the last thing we want, but I I think a lot of these companies, because of their attitudes and their positions, are frustrating the rule of law.

What are their attitudes?

They’re going to develop certain types of technologies that are going to be impenetrable to anybody, and even if they —

What’s the attitude?

The attitude is that the U.S government is “them” — almost a we versus them. I think as American citizens, whether in the public or the private sector, there needs to be a recognition that the government has obligations to protect the general welfare and public security. Who do they think makes up the FBI and CIA and NSA? American men and women from every state, carrying out their responsibilities as faithfully as they can to protect their fellow citizens. Have mistakes been made? Absolutely. Are there some individuals who have abused their authority? Yes. But in the grand scheme of things, what the government can do to safeguard the country and protect its citizens is more [important].

The encryption debate seems to be dormant right now, but it’s hard to believe it will be out of the news for long. Clearly, people in the intelligence community have a huge responsibility made harder by encrypted data. But as Brennan himself acknowledges, very interestingly, there have been individuals (in government) who have abused their authority and mistakes have been made. Like Bloomberg’s recent editorial, Brennan sees this as an issue where the public should simply trust the government. After all, he says, employees of the FBI, CIA, and NSA are all just “American men and women from every state carrying out their responsibilities…”

Our principles in a free society once again align or collide with technology improvements (depending on your perspective). The choice: The government decides what private information from any of us is available to them (I’ll use the loaded but accurate term again – police state), or each of us has a right to protect our private information as we see fit.

To review: this, this, and this.

Categories    Technology    Politics    Encryption