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Cotton Questions NSA Director About Data Security and Cybersecurity

April 5, 2016

Contact: Caroline Rabbitt (202) 224-2353

Washington, D.C.-- Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) during a Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing today questioned NSA Director Admiral Michael Rogers about data security, encryption, and cybersecurity policies in the wake of the San Bernardino terrorist attack. Excerpts from his questions can be found below. Additionally, click here to watch the video of the exchange.


"I think data security and cybersecurity are obviously critical in the modern world. Most people in this room probably have a smartphone in their pocket. Even my 70 year-old father finally turned in his flip phone and got a smart phone, recently. We keep emails, text messages, phone calls, financial information, health information, and many other sensitive data on our phones so I think data and cyber security is essential. I also think physical security is essential. I would hate to see Americans get blown to pieces because we had an imbalanced priority of cybersecurity over physical safety. How do we strike that balance as a society?"

"A decades-old law known as the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement act which tells telecom companies of any size that if they want to construct a telephone system in this country that it has to be susceptible to a wire tap, pursuant to a court orderif the court finds probably cause to order a wiretap against, for example, a terror suspect or a human trafficker or a drug dealer. Similarly, we all expect privacy in our bank accounts but banks obviously must maintain systems in which they turn over bank account information subject to court order against a potential money launderer. Is there any reason our society should treat data and tech companies any differently than we treat telephone companies and banks?"

"These questions have been about the larger debate about encryption going forward, about the way smart phones are designed, the way messaging systems are designed. There was a case recently involving Apple, the FBI, and the San Bernardino shooter in which the FBI requested Apple's assistance to override a feature of an iPhone. Apple refused. The FBI apparently found a third party capable of doing so and has withdrawn their case. Should Americans be alarmed at this kind of vulnerability in such a widely used device?"