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Justice Department concerns over Biden interview audio highlight concerns about AI misuse

WASHINGTON– The release of an audio recording of a special adviser’s interview with President Joe Biden could promote falsification and disinformation that mislead Americans, the Justice Department said, acknowledging that the U.S. government could not end the misuse of artificial intelligence before this year’s elections.

On Friday, a senior Justice Department official raised concerns in a court filing seeking to justify keeping the recording secret. The Biden administration is seeking to convince a judge to block the release of the recording of the president’s interview, which focused on his handling of classified documents.

This admission highlights the impact that AI-manipulated misinformation could have on voting and the limits of the federal government’s ability to combat it.

A conservative group suing to force the recording’s release called the argument a “red herring.”

Mike Howell of the Heritage Foundation accused the Justice Department of trying to protect Biden from possible embarrassment. A transcript of the interview shows the president has difficulty remembering some dates and confusing details, but shows deep memorization of information at other times.

“They don’t want to release this audio at all,” said Howell, executive director of the group’s monitoring project. “They’re taking the kitchen sink approach and they’re absolutely panicked that they don’t have good legal arguments to fall back on.”

The Justice Department declined to comment Monday beyond its filing.

Biden invoked executive privilege last month to block the release of the recording of his two-day interview in October with special counsel Robert Hur. The Justice Department has argued that witnesses may be less likely to cooperate if they know their interviews could become public. He also said Republican efforts to force the release of the audio could make it harder to protect sensitive law enforcement files.

Sen. Mark Warner, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told The Associated Press he was concerned the audio could be manipulated by bad actors using AI. Still, the senator said, it should be made public.

“You have to release the audio,” Warner said, although that would require “watermarking elements, so that if it was edited,” journalists and others “could cry foul.”

In a lengthy report, Hur concluded that no criminal charges were warranted for his handling of classified documents. Its report describes the 81-year-old Democrat’s memory as “fuzzy,” “poor” and with “significant limitations.” He noted that Biden could not remember events such as the death of his son Beau or the time he was vice president.

Biden aides have long been defensive about the president’s age, a trait that has drawn relentless attacks from Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee, and other Republicans. Trump is 77 years old.

The Justice Department’s concerns about deepfakes emerged in a court document filed in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by a coalition of media outlets and other groups, including the Heritage Foundation and the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

A lawyer for the media coalition, which includes the Associated Press, said Monday that the public has a right to hear the recording and determine whether the special prosecutor “accurately described” Biden’s interview.

“The government is subverting the Freedom of Information Act by telling the Court that the public cannot be trusted with this information,” attorney Chuck Tobin wrote in an email.

Bradley Weinsheimer, the Justice Department’s deputy assistant attorney general, acknowledged that “malicious actors” could easily use audio recordings unrelated to Hur and Biden to create a false version of the interview.

However, he argued, releasing the actual audio would make it harder for the public to distinguish deepfakes from real ones.

“If the audio recording is published, the public will know that the audio recording is available and malicious actors could create an audio deepfake in which a fake voice of President Biden can be programmed to say whatever the deepfake creator wishes” , wrote Weinsheimer. .

Experts in identifying AI-manipulated content said the Justice Department has legitimate concerns in seeking to limit the dangers of AI, but its arguments could have far-reaching consequences.

“If we were to adopt this strategy, then it would be difficult to distribute any type of content, even if it is original,” said Alon Yamin, co-founder of Copyleaks, an AI content detection service that mainly focuses on text and code.

Nikhel Sus, deputy general counsel for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said he has never seen the government express concerns about AI in litigation over access to government documents. He added that he suspected such arguments could become more common.

“Knowing how the Department of Justice works, this case needs to be reviewed by multiple levels of attorneys,” Sus said. “The fact that they presented this in a brief means that the department supports this legal argument, so we can expect to see the same argument in future cases.”

ABC News

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