Debates about encryption technology — like the ones that cropped up after last month’s terror attacks in Paris — are nothing new to him. Reports that ISIS is using apps with encryption tech to hide their conversations don’t surprise him. He was the deputy director of the NSA and saw dozens of times when encryption was an obstacle in pursuing a target.
He couldn’t get into specifics but explained broadly: The agency might identify an adversary through financial transactions, or by following the chain of possession for weapons. But if the target was using some form of encrypted messaging, the NSA would lose the last piece of the puzzle.
“The worst case scenario is that we fail to see a plot that essentially is on the fly … and that we only see it when it’s in execution,” Inglis said. “At that moment in time, you’re reacting to a disaster in the making as opposed to staving one off. That’s the threat, that’s the challenge.”