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Holt: In Its Zeal to Spy, the NSA May Be Leaving Americans Less Secure

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12) today released the following statement in response to reports in The New York Times and The Guardian that the National Security Agency has weakened or broken the online encryption relied upon by hundreds of millions of Americans to protect their private data.

According to news reports, the NSA has covertly weakened the computer security protocols that American citizens and businesses rely on. The NSA has surreptitiously obtained the encryption keys used by major corporations to protect online data. And the NSA has demanded that manufacturers insert "back doors" into computer hardware to enable secret government eavesdropping.

Holt has introduced legislation, the Surveillance State Repeal Act, that would outlaw many of the activities described in these reports.

"These reports, if true, show that the NSA, in its zeal to spy, may be leaving Americans less secure.

"It's as though the NSA had secretly copied the keys to your home. Worse, it's as though the NSA had prohibited manufacturers from even making secure locks -- all while assuring the public that of course their belongings were safe.

"The NSA has long taken part in setting standards for communications security. Its role in this activity has been respected. But it now appears that the NSA may have abused this role to make Americans' communications more vulnerable.

"Although the NSA's goal may have been to allow the U.S. government to spy on communications, by introducing vulnerabilities into widely used computer hardware and software, the NSA would be rendering all communications vulnerable to criminals and foreign intelligence agencies. Anyone can walk through an open door if they can find it.

"Further, these revelations raise questions for American technology companies. What foreign business would buy products that have been deliberately rendered insecure?

"Earlier this year I introduced legislation, the Surveillance State Repeal Act, that would make it illegal for the NSA to insert "back doors' into computer hardware or software. These revelations give that proposal new urgency.

"Our constitution protects Americans against unreasonable searches and seizures. I believe that includes a right for innocent citizens to encrypt their data securely."

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