Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said this morning that Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks have made it harder for the agency to fight terrorism.
Snowden’s revelations about NSA surveillance, he said, was “one of the drivers toward the demands for more and more encryption in the marketplace.”
“That has made it harder for us to detect crime and it has made it harder for us to detect potential terrorist activity. And this is not just a federal matter. I hear from district attorneys about their inability to track criminal activity now because of encryption,” Johnson said. ‘And so we have to find a solution to this and we’re thinking about this actively right now.”
ISIS, for example, has been encouraging followers to switch to Tor browsers to block their browsing habits and location.
Johnson reiterated that we’re “in a new phase, in my view, in the global terrorist threat because of effective use of social media, the Internet, by ISIL, al-Qaeda, we have to be concerned about the independent actor and the independent actor who is here in the homeland who may strike with little or no warning to law enforcement, to our intelligence community.”
“So the nature of the global terrorist threat has evolved and it is all the more important, therefore, for my department, for the FBI, to share information, to share intelligence, what we’re seeing, what state and local law enforcement. So [FBI] Director Comey and I are spending a lot of time doing that these days.”
He added that much of the department’s concern “continues to center around aviation security, which is why I directed enhancements to aviation security at what we call last point of departure airports overseas that have flights directly into the United States.”
“We continue to evaluate whether more is necessary, concerning aviation security. And we do have concerns about the independent actor or small group of actors who are not necessarily directed by a terrorist organization, but are inspired,” he said.
Johnson defended the collection of telephone metadata by the NSA as “basic intelligence collection.”
“I know from my days in the Department of Defense and in Homeland Security it is critical to know what is happening overseas,” the secretary said. “But the way the threat is evolving, we also have to be concerned about independent actors here in the homeland.”