NSA director wants gov't access to encrypted communications

The U.S. should be able to craft a legal framework to let government agencies read encrypted data, Rogers says

It probably comes as no surprise that the director of the U.S. National Security Agency wants access to encrypted data on computers and other devices.

The U.S. should be able to craft a policy that allows the NSA and law enforcement agencies to read encrypted data when they need to, NSA director Michael Rogers said during an appearance at a cybersecurity policy event Monday.

Asked if the U.S. government should have backdoors to encrypted devices, Rogers said the U.S. government needs to develop a "framework."

"You don't want the FBI and you don't want the NSA unilaterally deciding, 'So, what are we going to access and what are we not going to access?'" Rogers said during his appearance at the New America Foundation. "That shouldn't be for us. I just believe that this is achievable. We'll have to work our way through it."

Justsecurity.org has a transcript of an exchange between Rogers and Yahoo CISO Alex Stamos at Monday's event.

Rogers isn't the first member of President Barack Obama's administration to call for encryption workarounds in recent months. In September, after Apple and Google announced encryption features on their smartphone OSes, both FBI Director James Comey and Attorney General Eric Holder raised concerns that additional encryption tools would hinder law enforcement investigations.

Stamos questioned whether it is a good idea to build backdoors in encryption. "If we're going to build defects/backdoors or golden master keys for the U.S. government, do you believe we should do so .... for the Chinese government, the Russian government, the Saudi Arabian government, the Israeli government, the French government?" he said, according to the Justsecurity transcript.

Rogers objected to using the word "backdoor". "When I hear the phrase 'backdoor', I think, 'Well, this is kind of shady. Why would you want to go in the backdoor? It would be very public,'" he said. "Again, my view is: We can create a legal framework for how we do this. It isn't something we have to hide, per se."

An NSA spokeswoman wasn't immediately available for further comment.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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Tags New America FoundationEric HolderU.S. National Security AgencyJames ComeyencryptiongovernmentfbiprivacyAlex StamosMichael RogersYahoosecurity

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