1. SOUNDBITE (English) James Comey, Director Federal Bureau of Investigation:
"At some point encryption is going to figure in a major event in this country. We have to have the conversation before that happens because after that happens, the time for thoughtful reflection will be significantly reduced. And this is a hard conversation. It's a conflict of two values we all share."
2. SOUNDBITE (English) James Comey, Director Federal Bureau of Investigation:
"And I'm not here to tell you what the answer is to resolve this problem, but one thing we have to recognize, is that moving to a place where huge swaths of American life are by default out of reach of judicial authority is a different way to live. We've never lived that way before. And it destroys the balance that our founders struck, and maybe that's okay, or maybe that's terrible. That is not for the FBI to say. The FBI's job is to tell the American people when the tools you are counting on us to use to protect you aren't working so much anymore, we need to shout from the rooftops. But the FBI should not tell people what the answer is, nor should companies that make amazing equipment. They should not be telling the American people how to solve this problem. The American people should be figuring out how they want to be governed. But that conversation has to be informed by and understanding of the costs of absolute privacy."
3. SOUNDBITE (English) James Comey, Director Federal Bureau of Investigation:
"So I hope you'll join in that conversation which will probably be, we'll have to wait until after the election to have the space in American life to have that conversation, that's fine. But we will continue collecting data so we can have that informed conversation next year."
FBI Director James Comey said government and the tech industry need to sort out their differences over encryption before "something terrible happens" that would make productive conversations impossible.
Acknowledging that talks will probably have to wait until a new president takes office next year, Comey said that it's up to the American people _ not the FBI or the tech companies _ to decide how to resolve the issue. But before making that decision, people need to understand the cost of absolute privacy.
"At some point encryption is going to figure into a major event in this country, "Comey said. "We've got to have this conversation before that happens, because after that, the time for thoughtful reflection will be significantly reduced."
Comey made the comments Tuesday at the International Conference on Cyber Security in New York, an event jointly held by the FBI and Fordham University.
The encryption debate took center stage earlier this year after the FBI demanded that Apple Inc. help it access an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters.
Apple vowed a court fight, but the matter was ultimately dropped after a third-party provided the FBI with a way to access the phone's information.
The FBI and other law enforcement maintain that without a so-called "back door" through strong encryption, investigators can't get access to potentially crucial information. But much of the tech industry and privacy advocates counter that creating a back door would undermine security for everyone.