Obama’s Troubling Dog Whistle on Encryption

7 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

First Time EVER: New Poll Shows Most Americans Want Troops On The Ground To Crush ISIS.

While 53 percent of Americans want ground troops in Syria and Iraq, 60 percent think that President Barack Obama has dealt poorly with terrorism. The intelligence report, compiled by agencies including the CIA and DIA, says ISIS’ numbers could grow unless they lose territory in Iraq and Syria, US officials told The Daily Beast.If you listened closely during United States President Barack Obama’s speech to his nation on Sunday night, you would have heard him refer to the fact that the US war against Daesh (the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) — which is well over a year old at this point — is illegal and unconstitutional.Obama’s remarks could put into sharp focus again the demand by law enforcement agencies for tech companies to provide ways for the government to be able to access encrypted communications.In President Obama’s prime-time address from the Oval Office—just his third in seven years—he struck a reassuring tone, reiterating his commitment to battling the Islamic State and calling for tolerance toward Muslim communities at home.

In the speech, the president called on Congress to formally authorize the use of military force against Islamic State terrorists, to enact a basic gun-control proposal, and to work out a system for stringent background checks for U.S. visas. But there was another policy proposal Obama mentioned briefly, which could have serious consequences for the way Americans use technology. [W]e constantly examine our strategy to determine when additional steps are needed to get the job done. An incredible total of 90 percent of Republicans don’t believe the U.S. has been aggressive enough against ISIS, compared to 66 of independents and 58 percent of Democrats. That’s why I’ve ordered the Departments of State and Homeland Security to review the visa-waiver program under which the female terrorist in San Bernardino originally came to this country.

Part of the dissatisfaction stems from the perception that the Obama administration has no coherent strategy and continually faces rebuke from within its own ranks. According to Article I, section eight of the US Constitution, only Congress has the power to declare war, not the executive branch, and under the War Powers Act passed after the Vietnam War, Congress must authorise war within 90 days after any combat mission begins. Although officials in the administration have argued that ISIS is contained, the intelligence community disagrees, a disagreement brought into sharp relief by the recent terrorist attacks in Paris. With that last sentence, Obama seemed to allude to a long-simmering debate between the U.S. technology industry and law-enforcement officials over encryption—and he seemed to hint that he was finally choosing a side. He framed congressional authorization of the war against Isis as a solidarity or symbolic issue – like the US Congress would be showing the American public unity or something – but it’s much more consequential than his deceptive wording allows.

An intelligence report, requested by the White House before the Paris attacks in November, predicts that ISIS will expand both geographically and in terms of supporters, unless it suffers some serious defeats on the battlefield. Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey has previously asked for a “robust debate” on encryption of communications, saying that the technology could come in the way of his doing his job to keep people safe. The theory that the ongoing military action against Daesh is illegal — no matter what you think the merits of fighting the terrorist organisation are — isn’t just my opinion: It’s the opinion of legal scholars across the political spectrum. In a statement after Obama’s speech, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, a Republican from California, said that the committee would advance legislation to combat terrorists’ use of social media. He had no new strategy to offer, and only discussed what actions his administration has taken up to this point. “What we need is not a political sales job but serious, sustained action.

Even the former head of the Office of Legal Counsel under the Bush administration Jack Goldsmith has questioned Obama’s unprecedented claims to executive authority. If U.S. companies were forced to hand over the keys to their customers’ encrypted communications to the government, those who need a high level of online security and privacy would likely turn abroad for better options, potentially dealing a blow to the U.S.’s heavily technology-reliant economy.

The marginal changes in military tactics he has taken since Paris demonstrate that the president continues to be reactive, rather than go on the offensive against a dangerous enemy,” said House Armed Services Chairman GOP Rep. It’s not just shady actors that rely on encryption for security: The online-banking and e-commerce industries, for example, require high levels of digital protection to survive. Ever since the revelations in 2013 by Edward Snowden of wide-scale surveillance by the National Security Agency, the industry and civil rights groups have been fighting to counter demands for information, usually coupled with gag orders, which are seen to encroach on user privacy. It’s hard to figure out who is more to blame here: The administration, which has foisted an extremely dubious legal theory on the American public; or Congress, which has been so terrified of doing its job and casting a vote for or against this war that they have continually done everything in their power to pretend that they don’t have to.

While Obama’s veiled, passing reference to encryption Sunday night is far from an announcement of a sweeping policy change, it suggests he hasn’t written off law enforcement’s calls for weaker data protection. But any decision — or indecision — could have significant consequences beyond 2016: Republican front-runner Donald Trump has boasted he would “bomb the [expletive] out of Daesh” and, disturbingly, said the US military should kill their families as well. It’s a sign that the recent spate of highly visible terrorist attacks—at home and abroad—might lead to a renewed push for surveillance, like the one that followed the attacks of September 11th. It includes a demand that the authorisation be geographically and time-limited; remain in keeping with international law; force the administration to delineate objectives and report its progress in meeting those objectives; and be limited to Daesh. Unfortunately, it’s probably much too rational for this US Congress to pass; it seems hardly worth hoping that this administration, or any administration, accept legislative limits on its power to wage war if it won’t accept constitutional ones.

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