[Cryptography] Say no to a Comey Key.

Phillip Hallam-Baker phill at hallambaker.com
Thu Dec 15 09:49:52 EST 2016

Personalizing an issue is usually a bad tactic in politics. But there are
important exceptions.

Whether or not you believe Comey's letter changed the outcome of the
election, there is more than enough reason to believe that it was intended
to have that effect. And you can be certain that he will be considering
himself head of the queue when it comes to being rewarded.

There is absolutely no secret about what Comey wants in return: a backdoor
key into every cryptographic application. That is what Freeh wanted when he
conspired with the Republican party to impeach Bill Clinton and it is what
Comey wants in return for sabotaging the campaign of Hilary Clinton.

Of course it goes without saying that Comey's own actions have demonstrated
the reason why he must not on any account be allowed to have a backdoor.
Comey was told that his intervention in the Presidential was completely
contrary to DoJ policy, he did it anyway. So from this point on, we don't
have to consider the possibility that the FBI might abuse its intercept
capabilities to interfere with an election, Director Comey has already
ripped up department policy to interfere in an election.

There must be a reckoning and a part of that reckoning must be the eventual
dismantling of the FBI itself. The combination of police force and
counterintelligence was always dangerous to democracy and that fact has
been proven under Hoover, Freeh and Comey. The agency must be split into
two parts and neither part should be called the FBI, hang any portraits of
past FBI directors or name their headquarters after them.

In the short term however, the immediate fight must be to prevent any
legislation mandating backdoor crypto passing through Congress and
designing technical infrastructures that make backdoor crypto infeasible.

Personalizing the issue by calling backdoor crypto a 'Comey key' raises the
cost to Democrats who might vote for the Comey bill. But it isn't just
Democrats who had problems with Comey's action. Many Republicans realize
that they are likely to be facing a Democratic administration in 2020 or
2024 and they are concerned about what might happen when the jackboot is on
the other foot.

But more importantly, personalizing the issue highlights the real problem
with any backdoor crypto: the people. Politicians tend to be reflexively
deferential to institutions such as the FBI or the NSA. But people are a
different matter. Asking if the FBI should have mass surveillance powers is
not the same for them as asking if they trust Comey with those same powers.
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