DOJ To Allow Warrants to Access Encrypted Data to Fight Child Trafficking

U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr on Tuesday introduced a bill to give law enforcement access to critical digital evidence requiring the makers of consumer electronic devices to provide law enforcement with access to encrypted data when authorized by a judge.

This measure would allow LEOs to uncover encrypted data that currently is unable to be accessed and used to track down or trace the activities of child trafficking, sex trafficking and drug trafficking rings, according to a statement.

The bill was sponsored by Senators Lyndsey Graham (Rep- S. Car), Tom Cotton (Rep-AR) and Marsha Blackburn (Rep-TN).

AG Barr said:

“While strong encryption provides enormous benefits to society and is undoubtedly necessary for the security and privacy of Americans, end-to-end encryption technology is being abused by child predators, terrorists, drug traffickers, and even hackers to perpetrate their crimes and avoid detection. Warrant-proof encryption allows these criminals to operate with impunity. This is dangerous and unacceptable.”

“The bill announced today balances the privacy interests of consumers with the public safety interests of the community by requiring the makers of consumer devices to provide law enforcement with access to encrypted data when authorized by a judge.”

“I am confident that our world-class technology companies can engineer secure products that protect user information and allow for lawful access. Data security and public safety are not mutually exclusive. Encryption should keep us safe and secure, not provide an impenetrable safe haven for predators, terrorists, and criminals.”

Critics of the government’s right to encrypted data have “argued that convincing or forcing tech companies to alter their tech to allow government access would leave loopholes open to criminals, who could exploit the same weaknesses to invade users’ privacy. For instance, if Apple were told to create a backdoor in its iOS operating system, a criminal could find the same backdoor and use it to pilfer information for as long as it remained open,” Forbes wrote in January.

The DOJ proposal is the latest measure in a long list of steps that have been put in place under the Trump Administration in the most serious attempt to combat sex and child trafficking by any previous administration.

In January 2019, U.S. President Donald J. Trump issued a statement declaring his administration’s commitment toward ending human trafficking.

Trump said at the time, “This is an urgent humanitarian issue. My administration is committed to leveraging every resource we have to confront this threat, to support the victims and survivors, and to hold traffickers accountable for their heinous crimes.”

In the preceding weeks, he had signed four bills demonstrating his commitment toward the fight against trafficking.

Shortly after these bills were initiated, nearly 1,700 suspected child sex predators were arrested during Operation “Broken Heart” over a two month period it was announced in a White House briefing in June 2019.

The briefing cites that,, “The task forces identified 308 offenders who either produced child pornography or committed child sexual abuse, and 357 children who suffered recent, ongoing or historical sexual abuse or were exploited in the production of child pornography.”

In January 2020, U.S. President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order Trafficking Victims Protection Act, 22 U.S.C. 7101.

Under the order it states that, “the Federal Government is committed to preventing human trafficking and the online sexual exploitation of children. Effectively combating these crimes requires a comprehensive and coordinated response to prosecute human traffickers and individuals who sexually exploit children online, to protect and support victims of human trafficking and child exploitation, and to provide prevention education to raise awareness and help lower the incidence of human trafficking and child exploitation into, from, and within the United States.”

“To this end, it shall be the policy of the executive branch to prioritize its resources to vigorously prosecute offenders, to assist victims, and to provide prevention education to combat human trafficking and online sexual exploitation of children.”

Early in his presidency, in December 2017, Trump signed an executive order declaring a national emergency related to “serious human rights abuse and corruption around the world”.

“Human rights abuse and corruption undermine the values that form an essential foundation of stable, secure, and functioning societies; have devastating impacts on individuals; weaken democratic institutions; degrade the rule of law; perpetuate violent conflicts; facilitate the activities of dangerous persons; and undermine economic markets. The United States seeks to impose tangible and significant consequences on those who commit serious human rights abuse or engage in corruption, as well as to protect the financial system of the United States from abuse by these same persons.”

The novelty of the EO was that it gave the ability to immediately freeze all assets of those involved in these crimes.

“All property and interests in property that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person of the following persons are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in.”

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