Barr: Warrant-Proof Encryption Aids Sexual Exploitation

Attorney General William Barr made clear Wednesday that one of the issues a new presidential commission will be tackling is the battle with Big Tech over access to devices and the "new obstacles" to law enforcement presented by technology.

Barr was delivering opening remarks for the creation of the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice in Washington Wednesday (Jan. 22).

He pointed out that the last such commission was back in 1965, created by President Lyndon Johnson.

"Much about our world has changed in the decades since President Johnson’s Commission," he said. "The incredible pace of technological change has meant the rapid evolution of new ways to commit and conceal crimes, from the proliferation of synthetic opioids to the use of warrant-proof encryption and the dark web to sexually exploit the most vulnerable members of society."

The issue of accessing iPhones and whether law enforcement should have a back-door route to such data surfaced last week in Barr's press conference on the December 2019 shooting at Pensacola Naval Air Station.

The attorney general, as did law enforcement officials in the Obama Administration, has pressed Apple to provide technological backdoors to help them access information to locked phones, but Apple has balked pointing to privacy issues.

Related: Barr Says Time Is Running Out on Warrant-Proof Encryption

On Dec. 6, Second Lieutenant Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, a member of the Royal Saudi Air Force training in the U.S., shot and killed three U.S. sailors, and wounded eight other people, before being killed himself. It has been branded an act of terrorism.

Barr cited two Apple iPhones owned by the shooter but damaged during the incident. 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.