Encryption, surveillance discussed on CFR panel on homeland security, ISIS

Members of a panel on the “Homeland Security Implications of ISIS Attacks” at the Council on Foreign Relations talked about the role of encryption and surveillance in the effort to defeat terrorists.
Members of a panel on the “Homeland Security Implications of ISIS Attacks” at the Council on Foreign Relations talked about the role of encryption and surveillance in the effort to defeat terrorists.

While former Department of Justice Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick said that every citizen or corporation should be required to “respond to process” when law enforcement needs access to information, former National Security Agency (NSA) Gen. Michael Hayden, now a principal at the Chertoff Group, noted that compelling tech companies to build backdoors into their products “for government to enter is a weak security position.”

The two, along with Robert Bonner, former commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and now senior principal, Sentinel Strategy and Policy Consulting, were speaking on a panel on the “Homeland Security Implications of ISIS Attacks” moderated by Dina Temple, counterterrorism correspondent for NPR.

Bonner chided internet companies that he said “want to sell privacy” for standing in the way of authorities having the same access to cell phone communications as they had to landline-based communications.

Panel members agreed that the U.S. and other countries need to take a strong stand against ISIS, which is waging asymmetrical war against its enemies and making use of social media to recruit members and share its narrative with potential sympathizers, but differed in their stances on encryption and government surveillance. Gorelick, who is now a partner at WilmerHale, called it “stunning” that the U.S. is “not great at surveilling and using social media,” something that ISIS seems to excel at. “We don't have the same power there,” she said.

To defeat ISIS, or even curb its impact, will take a coordinated sharing of information among countries, but Bonner said EU members had to share intelligence and tighten their borders but expressed concern that “they are so far behind us in terms of having a system to protect their borders.”

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