‘New urgency’ to stop NSA-spying after latest Snowden leak, congressman says



Published time: September 09, 2013 20:34

Reuters / Tobias Schwarz

Amid reports that the United States and Britain can crack the encryption methods used to secure most Internet traffic and online conversations, one America lawmaker is reminding the world that he’s already attempting to make such conduct a crime.

Disclosures made last week by former intelligence contractor
Edward Snowden revealed that the US National Security Agency and
the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters have achieved the
ability to decrypt Internet communications previously thought to
be protected from prying eyes. More than a month earlier, though,
Rep. Rush Holt (D-New Jersey) was working on Capitol Hill to try
and keep the government from ordering the installation of any
back-doors that’d allow such access.

Last month, Rep. Holt introduced HR 2818 in Congress, a bill that
include provision that “Prohibits the federal government from
requiring manufacturers of electronic devices and related
software to build in mechanisms allowing the federal government
to bypass encryption or privacy technology
.”

When Holt first unveiled HR 2818, he told RT that “there is a
strong interest in Congress and around the country to have the
debate that we have not had for decades
,” and suggested that
the time couldn’t be better to bring his bill up for debate. Now
following even further disclosures, Holt could see that debate
happening on Capitol Hill sooner than he thought.

According to top-secret intelligence documents supplied to the
Guardian newspaper by Mr. Snowden, the NSA has in recent years
spent $250 million annually on a program that involves working
alongside leading American tech companies to “covertly
influence
” product designs so that commercial software touted
to customers as providing encryption actually contain secret
backdoors that, if exploited, provide access to government
agents.

After the Guardian, ProPublica and New York Times published news
of the latest Snowden leak, Holt issued a statement saying,
These reports, if true, show that the NSA, in its zeal to
spy, may be leaving Americans less secure
.”

HR 2818, also known as the Surveillance State Repeal Act,
would make it illegal for the NSA to insert ‘back doors’ into
computer hardware or software
,” Holt said on Thursday.
These revelations give that proposal new urgency.”

Although the NSA’s goal may have been to allow the US
government to spy on communications, by introducing
vulnerabilities into widely used computer hardware and software,
the NSA would be rendering all communications vulnerable to
criminals and foreign intelligence agencies. Anyone can walk
through an open door if they can find
it,” Holt said.

Our Constitution protects Americans against unreasonable
searches and seizures. I believe that includes a right for
innocent citizens to encrypt their data securely
,” Holt
wrote.

Further, these revelations raise questions for American
technology companies. What foreign business would buy products
that have been deliberately rendered insecure?”
he asked.

Speaking to the New York Times last week, Holt added, “Even if
NSA does it with the purest motive, it can ruin the reputations
of billion-dollar companies
.”

Last week’s Snowden disclosure came just days after the fugitive
leaker released information on the US intelligence community’s
previously secret black budget. Those documents claimed the US
Consolidated Cryptologic Program asked for $11 billion in fiscal
year 2013 towards covert programs aimed at decrypting seemingly
secure transmissions.

Holt’s proposal hasn’t been touched on the Hill since it was
referred to committee on July 24. Congress returned from summer
recess this Monday and could act on it shortly.

Copyright: RT