Computer scientist/Congressman: crypto backdoors are "technologically stupid," DA is "offensive"

Rep Ted Lieu (D-CA) is a USAF reserve colonel, former member of the Judge Advocate General Corps and holds a computer science degree — he's one of the four members of Congress with any formal computer science qualifications.

Lieu serves on the Oversight and Government Reform's subcommittee on information technology, which has been hearing testimony from law enforcement, attorneys general and other entities who want to end the use of effective cryptography by the US public, in order to eliminate technological impediments to surveillance.

After hearing some particularly technologically clueless and Constitutionally incoherent testimony from Suffolk County, Mass DA Daniel Conley, Lieu let him have it with both barrels. Lieu called the technological proposals for cryptographic back doors "technologically stupid," and the proposition that the state should prevent its citizens from being able to communicate in private "offensive."

It's a fundamental misunderstanding of the problem. Why do you think Apple and Google are doing this? It's because the public is demanding it. People like me: privacy advocates. A public does not want a an out of surveillance state. It is the public that is asking for this. Apple and Google didn't do this because they thought they would make less money. This is a private sector response to government overreach.

Then you make another statement that somehow these companies are not credible because they collect private data. Here's the difference: Apple and Google don't have coercive power. District attorneys do, the FBI does, the NSA does, and to me it's very simple to draw a privacy balance when it comes to law enforcement and privacy: just follow the damn Constitution.

And because the NSA didn't do that and other law enforcement agencies didn't do that, you're seeing a vast public reaction to this. Because the NSA, your colleagues, have essentially violated the Fourth Amendment rights of every American citizen for years by seizing all of our phone records, by collecting our Internet traffic, that is now spilling over to other aspects of law enforcement. And if you want to get this fixed, I suggest you write to NSA: the FBI should tell the NSA, stop violating our rights. And then maybe you might have much more of the public on the side of supporting what law enforcement is asking for.

Then let me just conclude by saying I do agree with law enforcement that we live in a dangerous world. And that's why our founders put in the Constitution of the United States—that's why they put in the Fourth Amendment. Because they understand that an Orwellian overreaching federal government is one of the most dangerous things that this world can have. I yield back.

Irate Congressman gives cops easy rule: "just follow the damn Constitution" [Cyrus Farivar/Ars Technica]