On Monday, US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper blamed NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden for compromising the country’s ability to spy on people, at home and around the world, arguing that revelations about mass surveillance have led to a technological revolution to counter Big Brother.
"As a result of the Snowden revelations, the onset of commercial encryption has accelerated by seven years [since 2013],” Clapper said during a press breakfast. The intelligence chief added that the shortened timeline for technical advancement has had “a profound effect on our ability to collect intelligence, particularly against terrorists."
As the director explained, "The projected growth, maturation and installation of commercially available encryption – what they had forecasted for seven years ahead, three years ago, was accelerated to now because of the revelation of the leaks."
Clapper argued that encryption technology harms the public by impairing America’s security apparatus, despite growing benefits to consumers now protected from identity theft and foreign hackers. "From our standpoint, it’s not a good thing," said Clapper.
The intelligence director’s statements contrast with Snowden’s own assessment. During recent remote presentations, the outspoken whistleblower has told audiences not to trust commercial encryption and to instead use dark web browsers like Tor and Tails in order to safeguard privacy.
Although Clapper seems to have inadvertently informed the world that US surveillance capacity lags even further behind prevailing commercial technology than previously believed, he nonetheless remains smug about the surveillance community’s future arguing that no encryption remains unbreakable forever.
"In the history of mankind, since we’ve been doing signals intelligence, there’s really no such thing, given proper time, and proper application of technology, as unbreakable encryption," said Clapper.