FBI Director James Comey, speaking at Boston College Wednesday morning, said widespread digital encryption of devices and apps has made the FBI’s work more difficult.
“In October, November, and December, the FBI received to our examiners 2,800 devices for which we had lawful authority to open,” he said. “Twelve-hundred of those devices, so about 43 percent, we could not open with any technique.”
Speaking at the Boston Conference on Cyber Security, Comey said encryption used to be utilized by “the sophisticated actor.” Now, he said, it is used by drug dealers and other lower-end criminals.
Comey said he was not calling for weaker encryption, and that “strong encryption is a great thing” for cyber security efforts. But should Americans have an expectation of total privacy through encryption? That still needs to be answered, he said.
The FBI director also suggested that he intends to fulfill his 10-year term at the head of the agency: “You’re stuck with me for about another six-and-a-half years,” he said.
The speech came against a fraught political backdrop that has featured various high-profile cyber security issues in recent days.
On Tuesday, WikiLeaks, the international platform that publishes classified government documents, released information, apparently from the Central Intelligence Agency, showing how the spy agency can hack into Internet-connected consumer electronics like smartphones and televisions.
The remarks also came four days after President Trump tweeted that his predecessor, Barack Obama, had wiretapped Trump Tower during the presidential campaign. It remains unclear what the president was referring to or what evidence backs up his claim, and according to media reports, Comey unsuccessfully asked the Department of Justice over the weekend to deny the accusation.
Comey, appointed in 2013, repeated calls he has previously made encouraging Americans to have a robust debate over encryption.
“We need to stop bumper-stickering people, we need to stop tweeting at each other. We need to find the space to have a really hard conversation about how we want to be,” Comey said. “We need an understanding that everyone is approaching this debate with an open mind and a genuine respect for the rule of law and for privacy and public safety.”
During the campaign, Comey investigated the private e-mail server used by Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton while she served as secretary of state, a practice that was criticized for putting classified information at risk. Ultimately, he did not recommend criminal charges against Clinton, angering conservatives, but his announcement that he was reopening the investigation — two weeks before the election — caused an uproar on the political left.
— ADAM VACCARO
Immigrants’ benefactor marks 10 years since New Bedford raids
It’s been 10 years since philanthropist Robert Hildreth transformed from silent benefactor to immigration rights activist. He was spurred by a controversial Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid at a New Bedford textile factory on a chilly March morning that led to the detainment of 361 workers who were in the country illegally.
Back then, Hildreth put up hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money to bail out dozens of detainees held in custody in Texas, far from their families and legal assistance in Massachusetts.
To mark the anniversary of the immigration raid, Hildreth, through the Hildreth Family Foundation, has donated two $10,000 challenge grants to social service nonprofit Chelsea Collaborative and to Greater Boston Legal Services to help provide services and legal aid to immigrants and refugees.
Hildreth, the founder of Boston education nonprofit Inversant, became familiar with the Latin American economy while working for the International Monetary Fund in Bolivia until 1981. He said he believes there is “a tremendous need” to support community and legal-aid nonprofits, amid Trump’s sweeping executive orders on immigration and the accompanying threats to cut federal funding in so-called “sanctuary cities,” like Chelsea, where local authorities limit cooperation with federal immigration agents.
“GBLS is inundated with requests for help and also Chelsea Collaborative is inundated with immigrants just being very fearful,” Hildreth said. “The New Bedford raid was all over the front pages and it was something that happened when New England wasn’t looking and then they woke up to it. So we have to get ready, and I hope people remember that.”
— KATHELEEN CONTI
Unsung nonprofit heroes honored
When 26-year-old Dawnn Jaffier, a Boston youth worker, was killed in gang crossfire in 2014, the people who loved her were determined to celebrate her memory.
She had worked with numerous local nonprofits, including West End House, Playworks, City Year, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston. What better way to memorialize her, they decided, than to create an award in her name honoring other nonprofit workers?
From that idea grew the Light of Dawnn Awards, now in their third year, which honor unsung heroes in the charitable sector. This year’s recently named winners are:
■ Dawnmarie Salmons, music clubhouse director of the Boys & Girls Clubs/Edgerley Family South Boston Club, where she oversees all music programs
■ Juan Manuel Cantú, college success coordinator at Hyde Square Task Force in Jamaica Plain, where he helps high schoolers and college students get higher education
■ Tha Thai, assistant director of Roca Boston, which helps young people stay out of jail and overcome poverty
Each winner receives $5,000 from Newton’s Highland Street Foundation, and insurer John Hancock is funding $5,000 college scholarships to three high school seniors in Jaffier’s memory. — SACHA PFEIFFER