Senate Intel leader: ISIS using encrypted apps to plan attacks

Senate Intel leader: ISIS using encrypted apps to plan attacks
© Getty Images

Sen. Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrPublic health expert: Biden administration needs to have agencies on the 'same page' about COVID Top Biden adviser expresses support for ban on congressional stock trades Biden's FDA nominee advances through key Senate committee MORE (R-N.C.) is reiterating warnings that terrorists are relying on encrypted messaging apps to recruit and carry out attacks.


“I have long believed that consumer data is too insecure and that consumers should seek solutions to protect their information,” Burr said in the weekly GOP address released on Saturday. “Some of those consumers now happen to be terrorists — and those terrorists are using secure messaging applications to recruit, plan and execute attacks against civilians.”

His remarks come after months of relative silence on a draft encryption proposal the Intelligence Committee chairman circulated earlier this year with ranking member Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinLawmakers in both parties to launch new push on Violence Against Women Act Domestic travel vaccine mandate back in spotlight Biden, lawmakers mourn Harry Reid MORE (D-Calif.).

The bill would require companies to provide “technical assistance” to investigators with a warrant seeking access to locked communications.

“We find ourselves at a point in time where laws that were enacted to provide authorities and capabilities to our law enforcement and intelligence community agencies are out of date, stale and, in some cases, no longer applicable,” Burr said in his remarks.

As recently as late May, the Burr-Feinstein offering was reported as doomed — the bill had yet to be officially introduced, and onlookers saw its chances of passage as dim.

The draft proposal had been eviscerated by privacy advocates and technologists, who said it would undermine the security of everyday users of the internet.

But in the wake of the terrorist attack in Orlando, which killed 49, some see a pendulum shift away from stiff privacy protections. Days after the attack, House lawmakers voted down language that would have closed what critics call the “backdoor search loophole” in current surveillance law.

Identical amendments sailed through the House in 2015 and 2014, although they were stripped out before the funding bill reached President Obama’s desk.

But this year, the amendment to the annual defense appropriations bill failed, 198-222.

Among other things, the edit would have prohibited the government from requiring companies to build security vulnerabilities into their products — so-called backdoors in encryption — to ensure the government could access suspects’s communications.

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee had lobbied against the proposed edit in the days leading up to the vote, petitioning colleagues in a Thursday letter to “give our Intelligence Community all of the authorities it needs to detect and stop terrorist attacks.”

Burr, who has faced repeated criticism from civil liberties advocates for his law-and-order stance on encryption, gave a nod to privacy concerns in his Saturday remarks.

“Contrary to what some would have you believe, we can live in a free and open society while still being safe,” he said. “I feel strongly that we need to continually protect Americans’ civil liberties and privacy. The content of our phone calls, email discussions, bank transactions, medical records and data should be secure.”