Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Law enforcement's ongoing battle to access encrypted data on devices is taking a strange turn: The Justice Department is simultaneously poised to push new regulations for encryption while coping with a damaging report on how the FBI botched the DOJ's last regulatory push.

Why it matters: At least one congressman thinks the report might hinder any new effort to move encryption legislation through the House. It also gives plenty of ammunition to the already vocal critics of that legislation, including tech companies, security researchers and national security experts.

Driving the news: The new report from the DOJ's Office of the Inspector General finds the FBI unwittingly misled Congress about exhausting all options to break into iPhone of a suspect in the 2015 San Bernardino terrorist shootings.

"None of this changes what we already knew, that the FBI can conduct investigations without backdoors. In fact, this validates it," Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) told Axios.

The report: Former Director James Comey made the phone the focal point of Congressional testimony in 2016 that the FBI was powerless to conduct some investigations without new laws or a court order to allow it access encrypted data.

But the FBI subdivision that ultimately found a private sector solution — the Remote Operations Unit (ROU) — didn't even know about the iPhone woes until after the squabble between the FBI and Apple went to court.

  • Elements in the FBI wanted a finger on the scale: Per the report, one official "became frustrated that the case against Apple could no longer go forward, and he vented his frustration ...[H]e expressed disappointment that the ROU Chief had engaged an outside vendor to assist with the Farook iPhone, asking the ROU Chief, '[What] did you do that for?'"

Meanwhile: Political forces are rallying to make a new push for encryption backdoors:

  • The New York Times reports that the DOJ met with researchers that claim they can solve a key problem in regulating encryption, which is that every known expert in cryptography believes that creating a digital entryway for law enforcement risks a security catastrophe.
  • Politico reports that the Senate Intelligence Committee hosted Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance on Friday to speak on the issue.

How can the DOJ argue this to lawmakers? The central tenant of the DOJ's argument is that there's no way to conduct critical investigations without extraordinary access into cellphones. The FBI report has not done wonders for their credibility on that specific point.

  • Sen. Ron Wyden (R-Ore.) said in a statement: “It’s clear now that the FBI was far more interested in using this horrific terrorist attack to establish a powerful legal precedent than they were in promptly gaining access to the terrorist’s phone.”

This may never end: In the 1990s, cryptographers and security experts assumed that, like all good wars, the first round would be the last one. It wasn't.

"This is just going to keep happening," Hurd said.

Go deeper

Ina Fried, author of Login
2 hours ago - Technology

CES was largely irrelevant this year

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Forced online by the pandemic and overshadowed by the attack on the Capitol, the 2021 edition of CES was mostly an afterthought as media's attention focused elsewhere.

Why it matters: The consumer electronics trade show is the cornerstone event for the Consumer Technology Association and Las Vegas has been the traditional early-January gathering place for the tech industry.

The FBI is tracing a digital trail to Capitol rioters

Illustration: Sarah Grillo

Capitol rioters, eager to share proof of their efforts with other extremists online, have so far left a digital footprint of at least 140,000 images that is making it easier for federal law enforcement officials to capture and arrest them.

The big picture: Law enforcement's use of digital tracing isn't new, and has long been at the center of fierce battles over privacy and civil liberties. The Capitol siege is opening a fresh front in that debate.

Off the Rails

Episode 6: Last stand in Georgia

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Drew Angerer, Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 6: Georgia had not backed a Democratic presidential candidate since 1992 and Donald Trump's defeat in this Deep South stronghold, and his reaction to that loss, would help cost Republicans the U.S. Senate as well. Georgia was Trump's last stand.

On Air Force One, President Trump was in a mood. He had been clear he did not want to return to Georgia, and yet somehow he'd been conscripted into another rally on the night of Jan. 4.