On James Clapper’s CSM Breakfast Comments

Clapper has done it again. This time at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast, current Director of National Intelligence James Clapper gave a talk where he said that he believed the Snowden leaks which detailed the surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency (NSA) accelerated the development of encryption technologies. That’s “not a good thing,” according to Clapper.

Clapper called out chat apps WhatsApp and Telegram, both end-to-end encrypted, and the abandoned open-source encryption software TrueCrypt, as technologies that terrorists use to evade authorities.

In classic Clapper fashion, he left out an important detail. In Clapper’s fictional universe where Snowden did not leak the details of the surveillance programs the NSA had been running, some of which weakened the security of vital infrastructure systems, Clapper says we would all be better off. Far from better off, systems of security that industries depend on for their own survival, like those developed by security firm RSA and vetted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, in Clapper’s alternative universe, would continue to be insecure. Perhaps Clapper should stop taking the myopic stance that surveillance is the only way to make people secure. After all, surveillance only works when you don’t know you’re being surveilled. In contrast, security through security, actually being secure, works whether the public are aware of it or not.

So I will take this reality over Clapper’s and, frankly, so would the former Director of the NSA, Michael Hayden.

“When you step back and look at the whole question of American security and safety writ large, we are a safer, more secure nation without back doors,” he says. With them, “a lot of other people would take advantage of it.”
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