James Comey, the director of the FBI, told a Senate committee Wednesday that the government should have the right to lawfully access any device or electronic form of communication with a lawful court order, even if it is encrypted.


FBI Director James Comey Brookings Institution

Comey and another Justice Department official briefed the Senate Judiciary Committee and complained that keys necessary to decrypt communications and electronic devices often reside “solely in the hands of the end user”—which they said is emblematic of the so-called “Going Dark problem.” Companies should bake encryption backdoors into their products to allow lawful access, they said.
“We are not asking to expand the government’s surveillance authority, but rather we are asking to ensure that we can continue to obtain electronic information and evidence pursuant to the legal authority that Congress has provided to us to keep America safe,” read the joint prepared remarks (PDF) of Comey and Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates. “Mr. Chairman, the Department of Justice believes that the challenges posed by the Going Dark problem are grave, growing, and extremely complex.”
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