Jim Baker served as FBI general counsel during the Bureau’s disagreement with Apple in 2016 over an encrypted iPhone belonging to one of the perpetrators of the tragic San Bernadino attack. At the time, he staunchly defended the FBI’s right to access the encrypted data, a position he still advocates. However, in the years since, he has shifted his thinking on encryption technology, adopting the motto, “embrace reality and deal with it.” Traditionally, the encryption debate has been categorized as “security versus privacy.” Jim argues the encryption debate is instead better defined as “security versus security.” Encryption provides for an overall more secure environment. While widespread encryption does come as a cost - such as limiting law enforcement’s solve or even prevent crimes - it also allows society at large to defend against malicious cyber actors stealing our communications, personal data and intellectual property. The best solution to the "going dark" debate will require a careful balancing of certain equities: law enforcement, congress, civil libertarians, tech companies, privacy advocates, human rights activists, among others.  Jim argues that law enforcement should, instead of running from encryption, embrace it because everyone benefits from a secure data environment.  

Jim Baker is Director of National Security & Cybersecurity at the R Street Institute. Formerly general counsel of the FBI, he has worked on cyber and national security issues both inside and outside of government.
Baker joined R Street from the Lawfare Institute, where he was a visiting fellow. He also worked for the Brookings Institution, where he was a visiting fellow in governance studies. In addition to his general counsel position, Baker served as a senior strategic advisor at the FBI until May 2018. He has been a lecturer at Harvard Law School and a fellow of the Institute of Politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Baker is also a CNN Legal Analyst. Baker holds a juris doctor and a master’s degree in political science from the University of Michigan. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame.