Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Good afternoon, everyone. First, I would like to thank Amie Ely and the wonderful team at NAAG for all of their amazing work, and for hosting this event on such an important topic. Thank you as well to everyone in the audience for taking the time to join virtually for what should be a truly interesting conversation. Perhaps it’s fitting that we are having a discussion — via webcam — that highlights the importance of digital evidence.
As Amie said, my name is Beth Williams, and I am the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Policy, or “OLP.” OLP sits at the intersection of the Justice Department’s many different components, and is responsible for developing and coordinating high-priority policy initiatives for the Attorney General. OLP is often referred to as the “think tank” of the Department of Justice. Because OLP is not a litigating component, we have the freedom to be proactive, which means thinking ahead to what will be the most pressing concerns going forward in criminal justice, national security, and many other areas.
Of the policy issues on which I’ve had the opportunity to work while at the Department, it’s clear that responsible encryption and Lawful Access is one of the most essential to public safety, both now and in the future. When I say “Lawful Access,” I am referring to the government’s ability — consistent with the Constitution and all applicable laws — to access the digital evidence necessary to investigate and prosecute criminal and national security threats. This includes evidence stored on locked devices — which we will hear much about during the presentations today — as well as evidence transmitted over networks.
In 2020, it is hard to imagine criminal activity that does not in some way connect with the digital world, from online child exploitation and human trafficking, to violent gang activity and terrorism. And yet, over the past several years, the development of “end-to-end” or “warrant-proof” encryption means that law enforcement is increasingly unable to access essential evidence to combat these threats, even with a warrant or court order. The situation is especially dire for many of you, our state and local partners, who handle the vast majority of criminal investigations and prosecutions in our country.
The Justice Department explored this phenomenon at a summit entitled Lawless Spaces: Warrant-Proof Encryption and Its Impact on Child Exploitation Cases, which included an eye-opening panel on the experience of state and local law enforcement with warrant-proof encryption. I encourage you all to view a recording of the event on DOJ’s Lawful Access website.
During the summit, I had the privilege to speak with a mother who experienced the real-life nightmare of learning from law enforcement that her daughter was subjected to sexual abuse shared online. At the time, the images of her abuse were the most highly traded child sexual abuse materials in the world. Analysts at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (or NCMEC) were able to determine that the criminal responsible was the child’s own biological father, who had been abusing his daughter since she was five years old. Fortunately, law enforcement was able to analyze the evidence, rescue the child, and bring her abuser to justice.
Increasingly, however, tragic stories like this one do not result in rescue for the child or justice for the abuser. During our work on Lawful Access, we learned about a case in Ohio, where an undercover cop responded to an online ad for prostitution. The ad implied that the woman being sold was potentially a victim of sex trafficking, and young—possibly even underage. Law enforcement arranged to meet the girl and her escort at a hotel, where they quickly established that she was only 16 years old. Police arrested the girl’s handler and seized his cell phone.
The next day, the suspect told an acquaintance over a jail telephone that “If they get in my phone, I’m doing time for other [stuff].” Law enforcement obtained a search warrant for the phone, which they expected to contain names of other potential victims and predators. But law enforcement wasn’t able to access that information because the phone was locked and encrypted. In fact, we may never get the evidence needed to prosecute the suspect for his most serious offenses, bring other offenders to justice, or save other potential victims.
The exponential increase in child exploitation would be troubling enough by itself, but it is particularly alarming because of the accompanying spread of warrant-proof encryption technology that makes detection and prevention much more difficult, and, in many cases, simply impossible. This is despite the fact that judges often rule that there is probable cause of evidence of a crime to justify the search. Warrant-proof encryption defies our Fourth Amendment jurisprudence, in which courts have balanced privacy and the need for criminal enforcement for hundreds of years.
Consider that in 2019 alone, NCMEC received 16.9 million reports of suspected online abuse of children. These reports are often the only lifeline for children who have been — or are continuing to be — abused in the most horrifying ways imaginable. And yet, NCMEC estimates that, if warrant-proof encryption continues to expand, more than half of these tips will vanish. In real terms, that means thousands of children who will not be saved.
We recognize that encryption is an essential tool that helps protect our data and devices from cyber threats; but we are also compelled to acknowledge that warrant-proof forms of encryption are subject to misuse and abuse, and should be addressed.
As Attorney General Barr has stated, “making our virtual world more secure should not come at the expense of making us more vulnerable in the real world. . . . The status quo is exceptionally dangerous, unacceptable, and only getting worse.” I hope that today’s event will promote a dialogue about achieving real solutions for this urgent problem. Thank you, all.
Greetings I’m Sam.
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- Department of Justice Highlights Work Combating Anti-Semitic ActsBy Sam NewsOctober 21, 2020Today, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen presented remarks highlighting the Department of Justice’s work combating anti-Semitic acts at a virtual conference hosted by Secretary of State Michael Pompeo entitled “Ancient Hatred, Modern Medium”—the first ever government-sponsored event focused on online anti-Semitism. Deputy Attorney General Rosen described just a few of the Department of Justice’s many recent accomplishments in combating anti-Semitism, focusing on social media and the internet. His remarks as prepared for delivery are available here, and the full State Department conference may be viewed here.[Read More…]
- NASA’s Cold Atom Lab Takes One Giant Leap for Quantum ScienceBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020A new study describes [Read More…]
- Attorney General Merrick Garland Recognizes Individuals and Organizations for Service to Crime VictimsBy Sam NewsApril 23, 2021More from: April 23, 2021 [Read More…]
- Military Lodging: DOD Should Provide Congress with More Information on Army’s Privatization and Better Guidance to the Military ServicesBy Sam NewsJune 9, 2021What GAO Found Since privatizing its domestic on-base hotels, referred to as lodging, the Army has made a variety of improvements, including the replacement of lodging facilities with newly constructed hotels (see fig.). However, improvements have taken longer than initially anticipated, development plans have changed, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) has not included key information about these delays and changes in reports to Congress. If OSD were to provide this additional information, Congress would be better able to determine whether the Privatized Army Lodging (PAL) program has achieved its intended objectives or fully consider whether the other military services should privatize their respective lodging programs. Room at an Army Lodging Facility before Privatizing and Room at the New Candlewood Suites Hotel Built at Yuma Proving Ground, AZ, in 2013 The Army does not estimate cost savings from the PAL program, but instead produces an annual cost avoidance estimate to demonstrate some of the financial benefits resulting from the privatization of its lodging program. Army officials stated that they calculate cost avoidance by comparing the room rate it charges for its lodging—which is limited to 75 percent of the average local lodging per diem rate across its installations—to the maximum lodging per diem that could be charged for that location. However, by using this approach, the Army is likely overstating its cost avoidance, because off-base hotels do not always charge 100 percent of per diem. Until the Army evaluates the methodology it uses to calculate its cost avoidance, decision makers in the Department of Defense (DOD) and Congress cannot be sure that the reported financial benefits of privatization have actually been achieved. OSD's oversight of lodging programs has been limited in some cases. First, OSD and the military services lack standardized data that would be useful for making informed decisions about the lodging programs. Second, DOD requires both servicemembers and civilian employees to stay in on-base lodging when on official travel, with some exceptions. Yet, according to OSD, many travelers are staying in off-base lodging, and OSD has not done the in-depth analysis needed to determine why and how much it is costing the government. Without an analysis that assesses the extent to which travelers are inappropriately using off-base lodging and why it is occurring, as well as a plan to address any issues identified, neither DOD nor Congress can be sure that the department is making the most cost-effective use of taxpayer funds. Why GAO Did This Study In 2009, the Army began to privatize its lodging with the goal of addressing the poor condition of facilities more quickly than could be achieved under continued Army operation. The Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force currently have no plans to privatize their lodging programs. The Senate Armed Services Committee report accompanying a bill for the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act included a provision for GAO to review improvements made to Army lodging, among other things. This report examines the extent to which (1) the Army has improved its lodging facilities since privatizing; (2) OSD reported complete information about the Army's development plans to Congress; (3) the Army has reliably determined any cost savings or cost avoidance as a result of its privatized lodging program; and (4) there are limitations in OSD's oversight of the military services' lodging programs. GAO reviewed policies and guidance; analyzed lodging program data for fiscal years 2017 through 2019 (the 3 most recent years of complete and available information); and interviewed DOD officials.[Read More…]
- Opening Statement at Climate Adaptation Summit 2021By Sam NewsJanuary 27, 2021John Kerry, Special [Read More…]
- Pain Clinic Owner Sentenced for Role in Operating Pill Mills in Tennessee and FloridaBy Sam NewsOctober 21, 2020A pain clinic owner was sentenced today to over 33 years in prison for her role in operating several pill mills in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Hollywood, Florida.[Read More…]
- Suburban Chicago Businessman Charged with Illegally Exporting Arms to UkraineBy Sam NewsOctober 9, 2020A suburban Chicago businessman has been indicted on federal criminal charges for allegedly illegally exporting gun parts and other defense articles from the United States to a company in Ukraine.[Read More…]
- Killing of Tahir NaseemBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Cale Brown, Deputy [Read More…]
- U.S. Policy Toward China: Deputy Secretary Biegun’s Remarks to the Senate Foreign Relations CommitteeBy Sam NewsSeptember 27, 2020Stephen Biegun, Deputy [Read More…]
- Alabama Man Sentenced to Prison for Tax EvasionBy Sam NewsDecember 14, 2020An Alabama man was sentenced to serve 12 months in prison for tax evasion, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard E. Zuckerman of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and U.S. Attorney Prim Escalona for the Northern District of Alabama announced today.[Read More…]
- U.S. Army Soldier Arrested for Attempting to Assist ISIS to Conduct Deadly Ambush on U.S. TroopsBy Sam NewsJanuary 19, 2021The Justice Department, along with the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and U.S. Army Counterintelligence, announced today the arrest of a private first class in the U.S. Army, on federal terrorism charges based on Bridges’ alleged efforts to assist ISIS to attack and kill U.S. soldiers in the Middle East.[Read More…]
- NASA Juno Takes First Images of Jovian Moon Ganymede’s North PoleBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Infrared images from [Read More…]
- ODNI, DOJ and DHS Release Unclassified Summary of Assessment on Domestic Violent ExtremismBy Sam NewsMarch 17, 2021More from: March 17, 2021 [Read More…]
- Follow Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich in Real Time As It Orbits EarthBy Sam NewsDecember 9, 2020With NASA’s Eyes [Read More…]