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NSA needs access to encrypted devices to ‘thwart terrorism’

24 February 2015 9:21

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The US National Security Agency chief has defended the agency’s spying activities, saying the American intelligence services need to have access to encrypted devices to be able to “thwart terrorism.”

“Most of the debate I’ve seen is that it’s either all or nothing, that it’s either total encryption or no encryption at all,” Admiral Michael Rogers told a Washington cybersecurity forum on Monday.

Rogers said it should be possible to have “a legal framework that enables us within some quasi-process to address.”

He refused to comment on reports that US government places spyware on computer hard drives, saying “we fully comply with the law.”

“We do that foreign intelligence mission operating within (a legal) framework,” he added.

The NSA head also supported FBI Director James Comey’s view on obtaining access to encrypted mobile devices as essential.

Last year, Comey said law enforcement could be hindered in critical investigations. He made the remarks after Apple and Google announced they would encrypt their smartphones and provide users with the keys, which would make it impossible to hand over data even with a court order.

The NSA has found a way to hide spying software deep within hard drives produced by the world’s top-notch manufactures, including Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba and others, according to cyber researchers and former operatives.

The ability, which the spying agency has been seeking to acquire for a long time, is a part of a set of spying programs discovered and revealed by Kaspersky Lab, a Moscow-based security software maker.

Rogers said he was not going to “get into the specifics of allegations,” he stated.

The agency has come under intense scrutiny after former contractor Edward Snowden leaked documents about government surveillance programs.

According to the documents, the agency had been collecting the phone records of millions of Americans and foreign nationals as well as political leaders around the world.

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