Presidential Panel to NSA: Stop Undermining Encryption

ProPublica Staff

Washington, DC, United States (ProPublica) – by Justin Elliott

The National Security Agency should not undermine encryption standards that are designed to protect the privacy of communications, the panel of experts appointed by President Obama to review NSA surveillance recommended in a report released today.

The recommendation, among the strongest of the many suggested changes laid out by the panel, comes several months after ProPublica, the Guardian, and the New York Times reported that the NSA has successfully worked to undercut encryption. The story was based on a set of documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Encryption technologies are supposed to render intercepted communications unreadable. But the NSA conducted what one secret memo described as an “aggressive, multipronged effort to break widely used Internet encryption technologies.” The agency deliberately weakened international cryptographic standards used by developers around the globe and worked with American and foreign tech companies to introduce backdoors into commercial products.

The White House said President Obama is reviewing the panel’s recommendations, which are not binding, and will make a final decision by January.

The panel said the U.S. government should not “in any way subvert, undermine, weaken, or make vulnerable generally available commercial software”:

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