Former NSA Chief Urges U.S.-Silicon Valley Deal on Encryption

Keith Alexander says a privacy-security balance can be found.

Former NSA Chief Urges U.S.-Tech Deal on Encryption

The U.S. government and Silicon Valley need to find common ground over concerns about encryption before another significant terrorist attack raises the stakes for each side, the former head of the U.S. National Security Agency said.

''Right now, we have an opportunity to do this in an unemotional manner,'' Keith Alexander, the NSA’s former director, said in an interview to air April 10 on Bloomberg TV’s Studio 1.0. ''We should take that opportunity and solve these problems to the best of our ability. It won’t be perfect. But get reasonable people to the table.''

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s attempt to force Apple Inc. to help unlock the iPhone of a gunman in December’s San Bernardino, California, shooting ignited a national debate over privacy and security. Apple fought a court order, arguing it was an unreasonable request and the government’s access to encrypted data was a broader policy issue for Congress -- not the courts -- to decide. The U.S. Justice Department ultimately withdrew its request on March 28 after the FBI said it found another way to access the phone.

Apple has argued that helping create a way for the U.S. into its devices would open the door for other governments as well.

''If we can come up with a solution that we -- the United States - can put forward as a balanced solution, perhaps that’s a solution that we could help Apple, Facebook, and Google in Europe, Asia and other places,'' said Alexander, a retired four-star Army general who is now chief executive officer of IronNet Cybersecurity Inc.

Alexander said current encryption policies have been outpaced by the speed of technological change, leading to conflicts over access between law enforcement and companies.

The question now, he said, is ''because we’ve gone so far so fast, how do we help the policy community catch up?''

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