The use of encrypted messaging apps like WhatsApp and Signal should not serve as a basis for surveillance of Americans, according to Rep. Mike Pompeo, President-elect Donald Trump's nominee to lead the CIA.
In a questionnaire submitted by Sens. Ron Wyden and Martin Heinrich, lawmakers asked Pompeo to clarify his stance on the personal use of encrypted communication, and whether that use might trigger government suspicion.
"In my view, a US person's use of strong encryption would not be sufficient by itself to establish probable cause that the person is an agent of a foreign power," Pompeo said in the questionnaire, released Thursday.
Pompeo added, however, that if the CIA has reason to believe that an American has been in contact with suspected terrorists, has "viewed or posted violent extremist propaganda online, expressed a desire to conduct a Homeland attack, and recently started using encrypted communications, his or her use of those communications should be considered in the course of the FBI investigation into the person."
Pompeo's remarks appear to soften his prior stance on encryption and how the government perceives the use of encrypted messaging by individuals. Last year Pompeo wrote in the Wall Street Journal that “the use of strong encryption in personal communications may itself be a red flag.”
Hamza Shaban is a technology policy reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.
Contact Hamza Shaban at Hamza.Shaban@buzzfeed.com.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.