Key players in the fight between Apple and the US government are testifying at a Congressional hearing today — but the most interesting remarks so far came from a Rep John Conyers (D-Mich.), who suggested that the government is trying to exploit a terrorist attack to expand its surveillance programs.
Conyers explicitly questioned the motives of the government during time allowed for questioning. He said he believes the government’s choice to ask a federal magistrate to provide special access, instead of asking Congress, has to do with a letter obtained by the Washington Post last year. That letter was written by Director of National Intelligence general counsel Robert Litt.
“The legislative environment is very hostile today,” Litt wrote in the memo. “It could turn in the event of a terrorist attack or criminal event where strong encryption can be shown to have hindered law enforcement.”
“I’m deeply concerned by this cynical mindset, and I would be deeply disappointed if it is found that the government was exploiting a national tragedy,” Conyers said.
Conyers also questioned the US government’s use of the All Writs Act to compel Apple, referencing the court order issued yesterday in a New York-based drug case that rejected use of the same act to compel Apple to unlock a suspect’s phone.