Government report reveals encryption actually thwarted wiretaps for the first time on record

By End the Lie

(Image credit: ideonexus/Flickr)

(Image credit: ideonexus/Flickr)

According to an official U.S. government report, four wiretaps have been thwarted by encryption, something which has never happened since such records have been collected.

This comes after as it was revealed that the National Security Agency’s massive surveillance program even spied on European diplomats. Meanwhile, the Army has blocked the Guardian over security concerns related to the information being put out about the surveillance program.

This latest revelation came in a report from the U.S. Administrative Office of the Courts, the agency that oversees federal courts.

“Encryption was reported for 15 wiretaps in 2012 and for 7 wiretaps conducted during previous years,” the report states, highlighting the fact that more people are turning to encryption over privacy concerns.

“In four of these wiretaps, officials were unable to decipher the plain text of the messages,” the report continues. “This is the first time that jurisdictions have reported that encryption prevented officials from obtaining the plain text of the communications since the AO began collecting encryption data in 2001.”

It’s important to note that the numbers mentioned above are quite tiny when compared to the total number of wiretaps authorized by federal or state judges.

The office’s 2012 Wiretap Report states that there were 3,395 authorized wiretaps, a quite notable increase over the 2,732 authorized wiretaps reported in 2011, as Wired’s Threat Level points out.

It’s quite important to note that this figure does not include any of the wiretaps authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

That is something that must be noted because the highly secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is the body which authorized the collection of all U.S. records from Verizon.

The latest controversies about government surveillance don’t deal with these types of wiretaps authorized by court order, instead they deal with the wiretaps authorized under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and related legislation which is subject to secret government interpretations.

Interestingly, this year’s report points out that a whopping 97 percent of the wiretaps issued in 2012 were for “portable devices” like mobile phones. Other equipment targeted by the wiretaps include everything from landline phones to computers to fax machines to microphones.

Around 87 percent of the wiretaps were issued in drug-related cases, according to the report.

David Kravets, writing for Wired, points out that in 1997 Louis Freeh, who was the director of the FBI at the time, told Congress that “all of law enforcement is also in total agreement on one aspect of encryption. The widespread use of uncrackable encryption will devastate our ability to fight crime and prevent terrorism.”

Despite the dire warnings that were used to attempt to get legislation passed that would authorize a government backdoor into almost all electronic communications at the time, this hasn’t happened.

“Sixteen years later, and judging by the government’s own accounting, we’re not even close to Freeh’s fears becoming reality, despite the government’s continued push for a backdoor into virtually everything,” Kravets writes.

Indeed, despite government fearmongering leveraged in a clear attempt to justify a further erosion of privacy and a further undermining of Constitutional rights, the fact is that encryption hasn’t created a climate where terrorists and criminals are somehow untouchable.

Yet this latest report does show that for people who do care about privacy, it might be possible to keep your communications private.

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One Response to Government report reveals encryption actually thwarted wiretaps for the first time on record

  1. Pingback: » Government report reveals encryption actually thwarted wiretaps for the first time on record Eyes Open Report

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