The Federal Bureau of Investigation is still unable to decipher the 109 encrypted messages that were sent by the attackers who opened fire outside the Muhammad Art Exhibit in Garland, Texas, back in May. According to FBI Director James Comey, Elton Simpson (one of the attackers) exchanged the messages with an overseas terrorist from the Islamic State. Comey released this information to the Congress after the San Bernardino massacre happened. He made this statement:
“In May, when two terrorists attempted to kill a lot of people in Garland, Texas, and were stopped by the action of great local law enforcement again, that morning, before one of those terrorists left to try and commit mass murder, he exchanged 109 messages with an overseas terrorist. We have no idea what he said because those messages were encrypted.”
The Texas attacks started at Curtis Culwell Center when Simpson and roommate Nadir Soofi drove up and began shooting with assault rifles at the event that has been organized by Pamela Geller. A guard killed both suspects and only one officer sustained a minor gunshot in the leg during the incident. Later on, Junaid Hussain, ISIS recruiter, and hacker, was linked to the gunman and the Islamic State took credit for the failed terrorist attack.
According to the Dallas Morning News, Comey said the messages between the ISIS asset and Simpson were not reviewed since “they were exchanged on devices equipped with encryption software of a kind that the FBI director and other law enforcement leaders have been arguing should not be available.”
NBC reported that the encrypted messages were exchanged on the dark web. In order to successfully read the messages, the Federal Bureau of Investigation needs more cooperation from technology firms and new laws to provide more tools. This case regarding privacy has always been a tough question for both the people and the government. However, Class noted a need to find a balance between protecting privacy rights and protecting the safety of citizens.
Comey also pointed out that due to the current encryption technology and privacy options (such as the Tor Browser), the FBI is one step backward terrorists and they need help to fix this. The director also made a statement regarding Simpson and Garland:
“We have no idea what he said because those messages were encrypted. And to this day, I can’t tell you what he said with that terrorist 109 times the morning of that attack. That is a big problem. We have to grapple with it.”