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FBI Director James Comey Says He Doesn't Want a 'Back Door' -- Just Access to Encrypted Data

Comey says the FBI is unable to access data stored on the phone of one San Bernardino attacker.

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

FBI Director James Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee he doesn’t want government-mandated “backdoor” access to secure devices — he just wants companies to turn over encrypted messages.

Comey testified Tuesday that federal investigators have been unable to access information stored on the smartphone of one of the San Bernardino shooters because the device remains locked. He said the widespread use of encryption on consumer devices is interfering with law enforcement and repeated his appeal for companies — presumably, Apple, Google and Facebook — to retain access to such encrypted communications.

We’re not in the room, so it’s hard to know if the Senators were at all perplexed by Comey’s testimony. But judging from the reaction on Twitter, others clearly were puzzled by the FBI director’s magical thinking.

Despite a high-level meeting in San Jose last month between the White House and prominent Silicon Valley executives to discuss ways to work together to combat terrorism, there remains a fundamental disconnect between law enforcement and the technology community on the issue of encryption.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch clearly sided with Comey, judging from remarks made at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

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