April 7, 2020 1:33PM

Target: Telegram

Monday night, Communications Daily (paywall) ran a story with the following lede:

Communications Daily April 7 2020 Telegram story screenshot

As Karl Herchenroeder noted deeper in the piece, the fact of the existence of an FBI investigation involving the Telegram app surfaced as a result of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request I filed last year with the FBI. In October 2019, the FBI responded to my FOIA with the following:

FBI Telegram FOIA response screenshot Oct. 10 2019

I appealed, but last month the Department of Justice’s Office of Information Policy (OIP) affirmed the FBI’s refusal to provide a single document mentioning Telegram. While I’m evaluating whether to sue DoJ over the denial, the fact that the Department has acknowledged that it has at least one (and likely far more) investigation of Telegram’s service underway is itself significant.

That former (Comey) and current (Wray) FBI directors have been waging public relations battles against public key encryption is well established. Comey of course actually went to court against Apple over the issue as it related to the San Bernardino Salafist terrorist incident. But what no senior federal official has been willing to admit is this: compromising the encryption utilized by tens of millions of Americans–including the family members of FBI, DEA, and other law enforcement officers at all levels–would make all of us more vulnerable to not just ordinary hacking, but potentially to kidnapping or even murder.

Comey, Wray and other security and surveillance hawks–most who have zero experience as computer programmers or cryptographers–continue to engage in magical thinking–convinced that somehow tech companies can develop encryption “backdoors” that only the government could access. As the data breaches at the Department of Energy and OPM (among others) have demonstrated, there’s no such thing as a safe crypto or IT security “back door”–if they exist, hostile actors will find and exploit them. The fact remains that the FBI has many tools to get at bad actors that misuse encrypted messaging apps like Telegram. Legislatively or court‐​mandated crypto “back doors” that place us all at risk should not be one of them.