WikiLeaks' recent Podesta dump reveal that Hillary Clinton's aides think her recent comments during the presidential debate may have exposed her limited understanding about technology and encryption in particular. Leaked emails show two of Clinton's top tech advisers critiquing her speech, specifically the comments she made on cybersecurity during the debate.
Following the first presidential debate, which saw both Clinton and rival Donald Trump questioned on cybersecurity policies, two of Clinton's tech policy advisors Sara Solow and Teddy Goff discussed her performance in emails, which are now included in the WikiLeaks Podesta dumps. Solow's mail to Goff saw her commending Clinton's comment about not introducing mandatory backdoors, while also lamenting the "not-so-great stuff" the presidential candidate said directly afterward.
"That she says no backdoor, which is good, but then says we need a way in, and then the bad line about not understanding technology. The latter two points make the first one seem vulnerable," Solow wrote. Solow's mail also drew attention to the fact that Clinton's comments indicated that she wanted unbreakable encryption, which could actually be broken. Solow added, "she's certainly NOT calling for the backdoor now -- > although she does then appear to believe there is "some way" to do the > impossible."
Goff's reply to Solow, while more optimistic, also included some criticism about Clinton's language and the terms used when she spoke about technology and encryption. Goff rated Clinton's overall performance on encryption as "a solid B/B+". Goff also noted that Clinton campaign chief John Podesta, who Goff referred to as "a fellow crypto hobbyist" and who was also copied on the email chain had "actually heard nice things from friends of ours in SV, which is rare!" Given the US government's recent stance on encryption, any praise from Silicon Valley would likely have been noteworthy.
Goff also noted that Clinton's salient comment about not understanding all the technology revolving around encryption should not be bandied about so freely. He also wrote, "the manhattan project analogy (which we truly, truly should not make ever again -- can we work on pressing that point somehow?) and the cringe-y "i don't understand all the technology" line, which i also think does not help and we should avoid saying going forward. speaking of not understanding the technology, there is a critical technical point which our current language around encryption makes plain she isn't aware of."
Goff also stressed on the importance of "ironing out" Clinton's message on encryption, adding "i actually do believe there is a way to thread the needle here, which i am happy to discuss; it requires us to quickly pivot from encryption to the broader issue of working with tech companies to detect and stop these people, and not getting into the weeds of which app they happen to use and that sort of thing."
Solow also agreed that Clinton would need a fresh strategy when talking about encryption to ensure that she not alienate the tech community. Solow suggested that Clinton could possibly assure tech firms "off the record" that instead of focusing on an encryption backdoor, her policy ideas could possibly involve the "the malware/key strokes idea (insert malware into a device that you know is a target, to capture keystrokes before they are encrypted)" or a "really super code breaking by the NSA".