FBI repeatedly inflated figures on encrypted cellphones: report

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The FBI has repeatedly inflated figures on encrypted cell phones to Congress and the U.S. public, according to a new report from The Washington Post.

The bureau has claimed that investigators were unable to access close to 7,800 devices tied to crimes last year, but the Post reports the actual number was likely closer to 1,000 or 2,000 devices. 


FBI Director Christopher Wray cited the claim multiple times over seven months while addressing the need to combat encrypted devices, according to the publication, first referencing the figure in October. 

He also brought the number up during an address in January. 

“While the FBI and law enforcement happen to be on the front lines of this problem, this is an urgent public safety issue for all of us,” Wray said. “Because as horrifying as 7,800 in one year sounds, it’s going to be a lot worse in just a couple of years if we don’t find a responsible solution.”

Officials told the Post that the bureau was first made aware of the number error last month, and that there is still not an exact number on how many phones tied to crimes were encrypted in 2017. 

The FBI said the issue was the result of the use of three databases, which overcounted the number of devices, according to the Post.

“The FBI’s initial assessment is that programming errors resulted in significant over-counting of mobile devices reported,’’ the FBI said in a statement to the newspaper.

The report comes as the intelligence community finds itself under intense scrutiny from the Trump administration.

President Trump on Sunday ordered the Department of Justice to look into whether the bureau improperly targeted his campaign during the 2016 presidential election, with the president and his allies seeking details about an FBI informant who apparently approached several advisers to Trump’s campaign during the election.

Tags cellphones data encryption Donald Trump Federal Bureau of Investigation

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