FBI Counterterrorism AD Michael Steinbach: "Prevent encryption above all else"

During a House Homeland Security Committee hearing in Washington, D.C. on June 3rd, 2015, FBI Counterterrorism Division Assistant Director Michael Steinbach enlightened those present to the difficulties his agency faced in using encrypted data from the private sector. “When a company, a communications company or a ISP or social media company elects to build in its software encryption, end-to-end encryption, and leaves no ability for even the company to access that, we don’t have the means by which to see the content”, Steinbach said, insisting that such content was useful for the interception of terrorism activities, particularly amongst supporters of ISIS abroad.

Mr. Steinbach denied that the agency sought to go "through a back door or [be] nefarious," describing instead an ideal practice among tech companies to eschew encryption altogether. In his twelve years with the FBI, Mr. Steinbach has held a number of positions, including program manager for the agency's operations at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Afghanistan, though no mention of specific experience or skill within the scope of technology appears on his official profile. The same applies to FBI Director James Comey, who in a speech delivered October of 2014, said "encryption threatens to lead all of us to a very dark place."

Meanwhile, US Chief Information Officer Tony Scott announced June 8th that all federal websites will be required to use the HTTPS protocol by 2016. Though the protocol by no means ensures the privacy of transmitted data, Scott's order nevertheless suggests the presence of dissent among US government officials as to the ultimate weight of encryption's soul.

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