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US Law Enforcement Access to Encrypted Communications Research Paper


Going Dark

The director of Federal Bureau of Investigation, James Brien Comey, claimed that intelligence gathering is going dark because of the use of encrypted information among a section of the society. The claim made by Comey is true. According to Olsen, Schneier, and Zittrain (2016), “Apple, Google, and many other providers of communication services offer end-to-end encryption in certain applications on Smartphone operating systems, as well as default encryption of mobile devices” (p. 2).

These communication services providers are responding to the demands of their customers who want a communication system that cannot be hacked by unwanted individuals. Information is very critical in the current competitive business environment. Firms are spending a lot of money to conduct research and come up with new information that can give them competitive edge over their rivals (Martin, 2010). However, other firms and unscrupulous cyber experts are taking advantage of information sharing platform to access information critical to the success of other firms (Hennessy, 2016). That is why some firms are now using encrypted messages to protect important information from being accessed by individuals who are unauthorized to have it.

The strategy to use encrypted messages may be beneficial to firms using it, but it is affecting the work of intelligence agencies. The new approach to communication means that intelligence agencies, such as Federal Bureau of Investigation and Central Intelligence Agency, are no longer capable of intercepting such communications (Murphy, 2005). The problem is that terror groups, such as ISIS, are also considering the use of encrypted messages to plan, communicate, and execute their criminal activities. The encryption makes it impossible for these intelligence agencies to intercept messages that may be a threat to the country. As such, intelligence gathering is going dark.

Allowing U.S. Law Enforcement Access to Encrypted Communications

According to Nagata (2015), there has been a debate as to whether the United States’ companies should allow law enforcement and intelligence agencies access to encrypted communication technologies. A section of the society believes that the intelligence agencies have been breaching the right to privacy by arbitrarily hacking into private information in the name of intelligence gathering. Most of those feeling aggrieved by the breach are companies spending a lot of money to come up with new information. They have supported the use of encrypted communication because of their desire for privacy. To them, it is important for the intelligence agencies to find other ways of gathering intelligence without breaching the right to privacy of individuals and companies in the country (Frakes, 2011). On the other hand, a section of the society, especially those working in the law enforcement and intelligence agencies, strongly believe that there is a need for the intelligence agencies to be allowed access to the encrypted communication technologies.

The need for the government to respect citizens and companies’ right to privacy cannot be disputed. However, the government has the sole responsibility of protecting its people and its borders from external attacks. The government can only protect its citizens and their property if it has the capacity to tap communication made by criminals and enemies of the state. The use of encrypted information is making it possible for criminals to communicate without their activities being detected (Clark, 2014). Protecting America, its people, and its wealth is more important than the companies’ need for privacy. The companies should allow the United States law enforcement agencies access to encrypted communication for purposes of fighting terrorism and crime.

References

Clark, R. M. (2014). Intelligence collection. Washington, DC, WA: Sage/CQ Press.

Frakes, K. M. (2011). Policies for and methods of intelligence gathering among small/rural agencies. Minneapolis, MN: Walden University.

Hennessy, S. (2016). Web.

Martin, G. (2010). Understanding terrorism: Challenges, perspectives, and issues. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

Murphy, C. (2005). Competitive intelligence: Gathering, analyzing and putting it to work. Aldershot, UK: Gower.

Nagata, L. (2015). Going dark. New York, NY: Saga Press.

Olsen, M., Schneier, B., & Zittrain, J. (2016). Don’t panic. Making progress on the going dark debate. Cambridge, MA: Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society.

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