When you send a text message to your spouse, do you think about who else may be reading it? With all of the news about government intrusion on your privacy, it’s a valid question. An even better one is whether you as a citizen should have complete access to what your government is saying and doing. According to the law, you have that right anytime you want; it’s part of being a citizen. According to the powers that be, however, you should only know what they tell you – and they are now using encryption, so they don’t have to tell you anything.
There are few things more ironic than the current encryption boom among Washington, D.C.’s power players. Even while the government seeks more warrantless access to the private affairs of citizens, it’s scrambling to hide its own doings – regardless of the transparency laws that exist to preserve accountability and historical records.
Naturally, the sudden fascination with encrypted chat is all President Trump’s fault; just ask the media. Politico even titled their piece on the subject “Trump inspires encryption boom in leaky D.C.,” implying that everyone is forced to hide from the big, bad Trump-monster.
The problem is multifaceted; Washington, D.C. leaks like a sieve. Information is power, but it’s also currency, and the truly valuable varieties lately involve both what President Trump is planning and how the various agencies plan to circumvent him. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is already in trouble for using Signal – a mobile app that offers encrypted messaging and calls – to “speak out confidentially against current administration policy on the environment,” as CNN reports.
While CNN’s article depicts an agency filled with oppressed freedom fighters whose First Amendment rights are quashed by draconian members of Congress, that’s not exactly the case. The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology drafted a letter explaining that the EPA was defying record-keeping rules and laws on government transparency by moving internal communications to Signal – and the committee is correct. EPA officials are “terrified,” according to CNN, because the president has barred them from putting out press releases or social media posts, and that he is reviewing the agency’s website and determining “which information will remain.”
The larger problem with encryption in government is not limited to the EPA. Politico reported on 26 February that White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer warned staff about using encrypted apps like Signal; doing so violates records preservation laws. Other agencies are also feeling the burn of accountability’s sunlight — and just like cockroaches, they’re scurrying for more comfortable darkness.
In reality, all of this muddies the waters. The core issue is this: the government, an entity that is supposed to serve the people, is fighting any and all accountability. Even as officials balk at transparency, they simultaneously demand a litany of agencies have full, unfettered, and warrantless access to every detail of the lives of private citizens.
Liberty Nation reports extensively on the depth and breadth of the current surveillance state, and every day it seems there is a new insult to the Fourth Amendment. As if the violations are not infuriating enough, these egregious blows to liberty are consistently defended as necessary by government officials who are actively hiding their own machinations against the American people.
That’s not just hypocrisy; it’s a complete perversion of the government-citizen relationship.
Privacy for citizens and transparency in the government – that’s how the system is supposed to work. The current debacle looks a lot less like a constitutional republic and a lot more like rulers in a kingdom with serfs.