Last night, immediately post-passage of the landmark USA FREEDOM Act, we celebrated as urged here in the District Dispatch. We also wrote, “Tomorrow, the fight for further badly needed reforms will go on.” Well, it’s now “tomorrow” and there is indeed more work that Congress can and must do as this post goes to press to truly prevent the ongoing wholesale invasion of our privacy in the name of national security.
The House of Representatives is now considering a large bill (H.R. 2578) to fund a variety of agencies, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology. NIST, among many other things, develops technical standards for the internet and, you guessed it, for internet security – that means encryption. The NSA, of course, has for some time wanted NIST to incorporate “back doors” – in effect, deliberately designed secret security weaknesses – into its encryption standards for use across the web and the world to make it easier for the NSA to continue to collect our communications in unfathomable volume.
The NSA wants to do this notwithstanding that more than 150 leading cybersecurity and encryption experts just warned in a letter to the President that back doors are a horrible idea that will almost certainly lead to profoundly damaging security breaches at the hands of cyber-criminals and hostile foreign governments. “Secret” back door algorithms, it seems, have a way of not staying so secret.
Congressman Thomas Massie (R-KY4) will today offer an eight-line amendment to the appropriations bill before the House that will nail closed the back door that the NSA wants by forbidding NIST from using any of its appropriated funds to consult with the NSA or CIA about intentionally weakening NIST encryption protocols.
ALA calls on every Member of the House to support the important and, unfortunately, critically necessary Massie amendment to H.R. 2578.