Presidential hopeful John Kasich: Work out encryption backdoors in backroom deals

During Republican debate he ducks whether backdoors weaken encryption for everyone

Presidential candidate Gov. John Kasich thinks granting encryption backdoors is something that ought to be worked out in private by the president.

During the Republican presidential debate last night the Ohio governor responded to a question about whether cryptographic experts were wrong when they say opening up secret messages to third-party decryption would cause more problems than it would solve.

“Well, look the Joint Terrorism Task Force needs resources and tools,” he said, “and those are made up of the FBI, state and local law enforcement. And … it's best not to talk anymore about back doors and encryption, it will get solved, but it needs to be solved in the situation room of the White House with the technology folks.”

The moderator asking the question, Megyn Kelly, responded, “But this is public testimony,” to which Kasich replied, “But I just have to tell you that it's best with some of these things not be said.”

Cryptographers and privacy advocates oppose mandates that makers of cell phones and providers of communications services be able to comply with court orders to decrypt devices and conversations. There is no known way to do that without backdoors, which security experts say are essentially flaws that could be exploited by malicious actors.

The issue is something other candidates have struggled with. Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton called for a Manhattan Project about encryption to come up with technology that would enable decryption in response to court orders but at the same time create no flaws that criminals could exploit.

Law enforcement officials, notably U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and FBI Director James Comey, favor requiring service providers and device makers to make it possible to comply with court orders to decrypt data and communications. They say they don’t want to dictate how that should be done and don’t want their agencies to have the power to do it themselves, they just want the result of decryption.

NSA chief Adm. Michael Rogers says that encryption is fundamental, but also wants the ideal of decryption without a backdoor.

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