This Sunday, September 21, the New York Times published an editorial, “Close the N.S.A.’s Back Doors,” supporting a piece of legislation that the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, alone among national advocacy organizations, has endorsed since August.
The Times editorial board wrote:
[T]he [NSA] has never met an encryption system that it has not tried to penetrate. And it frequently tries to take the easy way out. Because modern cryptography can be so hard to break, even using the brute force of the agency’s powerful supercomputers, the agency prefers to collaborate with big software companies and cipher authors, getting hidden access built right into their systems.
The New York Times, The Guardian and ProPublica recently reported that the agency now has access to the codes that protect commerce and banking systems, trade secrets and medical records, and everyone’s e-mail and Internet chat messages, including virtual private networks. In some cases, the agency pressured companies to give it access….
These back doors and special access routes are a terrible idea, another example of the intelligence community’s overreach….If back doors are built into systems by the N.S.A., who is to say that other countries’ spy agencies — or hackers, pirates and terrorists — won’t discover and exploit them?
Representative Rush Holt, Democrat of New Jersey, has introduced a bill that would, among other provisions, bar the government from requiring software makers to insert built-in ways to bypass encryption. It deserves full Congressional support.
The bill introduced by Rep. Holt is the “Surveillance State Repeal Act” (H.R. 2818). If enacted into law, the bill would entirely repeal both the USA PATRIOT Act and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008.