Success, and failure, with the systems

I am not a lawyer. Let’s repeat, I am not a lawyer. But I am not a criminal (as far as I know), and I am a laptop encryption user (and a fervent believer in it). Now, I am going to opine on a story…

A guy, one Joseph Edward Duncan II, is accused of murder and kidnapping (i.e. the parents were murdered, and the children were kidnapped). The FBI confiscated a laptop of his, and despite their best efforts, they can’t crack its encryption.

The computer key may provide Duncan some negotiating leverage in the next few weeks when authorities file federal charges that are expected to carry the death penalty. ‘Federal authorities are going to attempt to execute my client,’ said Roger Peven, Duncan’s federal public defender. ‘This is something I’d be happy to talk with federal authorities about.’ Peven is the only person other than Duncan to have seen some of the contents of the laptop. He has declined to say what he saw on the computer.

What is right with this picture is that encryption works. If you are storing sensitive personal and business documents on your machine, I’d bet a thief is not going to get into it any easier that the FBI, if properly encrypted. What a great system.

What is wrong with that picture? Well, this human (if you can call him that), killed a family so he could kidnap a couple of innocent kids to satisfy his sick sexual desires. Authorities found one dead child and another in a terrible state. Duncan plead guilty. Now his lawyer, who has seen the laptop contents, is using the laptop as leverage to keep Duncan alive.

Very sad system indeed.