Counterterrorism officials are tracking dozens of plots brewing Kansas, of all places, according to a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
“There are dozens and dozens of investigations of radical Islamic terrorists in Kansas today,” Representative Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.) said Wednesday on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show. “There is an awful lot of work to do. We need to be grateful for what our police and sheriff’s officers, and our state and national law enforcement folks are doing, but we have to make sure we give them all the tools that they need to reduce the risks that something like San Bernardino can ever happen.”
Pompeo’s revelation could provide fodder for a presidential campaign season that has been overtaken by immigration and foreign-policy issues in the weeks since the terrorist attacks in Paris last month, but they also figure into a debate between privacy hawks and national-security experts that has tilted toward civil libertarians since NSA leaker Edward Snowden made his revelations about the government’s bulk collection of phone records.
FBI director James Comey lamented the rise of encryption technology that prevents law enforcement from accessing smartphones even when they have a court order granting them the authority to do so, telling a congressional panel Wednesday that ISIS and other terrorist groups are exploiting the technology.
#share#“In May, when two terrorists attempted to kill a whole lot of people in Garland, Texas, and were stopped by the action of great local law enforcement . . . that morning, before one of those terrorists left to try to commit mass murder, he exchanged 109 messages with an overseas terrorist,” Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “We have no idea what he said, because those messages were encrypted.”
Comey resisted explicit calls for a “backdoor” that would allow the government to access such encryption services, but Pompeo was more direct. “What we need is those really smart technologists, some of which work in the government, most of which don’t . . . to work alongside local-law enforcement and the FBI to develop a mechanism that permits the government to get access when it has lawful reasons to do so,” he told Hewitt.
#related#Even mandating such a change in smartphone technology wouldn’t completely deprive terrorists of inscrutable communications, Comey acknowledged to Senator Mike Lee (R., Utah), in part because of the prevalence of encrypted-messaging applications.
“I think there’s no way we solve this entire problem,” he said. “The sophisticated user could still find a way.”
— Joel Gehrke is a political reporter for National Review.