FBI Director: We're Only Forcing Apple To Undermine Security Because We Chase Down Every Lead
from the bull-and-shit dept
Over the weekend the narrative the FBI has been trying to spread around the legal effort to get Apple to build a system that lets the FBI hack Apple customers began to crumble, as it was revealed that the FBI’s own actions were largely responsible for the fact that the information on Syed Farook’s phone was no longer accessible. That gave more and more weight to the argument that the whole reason that the FBI did this was to set a precedent that judges can force companies to hack their own customers, should the FBI want them to do so. Again, it seems fairly obvious that the FBI chose this case in particular, because basically everyone agrees that Farook and his wife were bad people who murdered a bunch of Farook’s co-workers. That obviously makes the FBI’s case more sympathetic for setting a precedent. But with the shady actions that resulted in the data being locked up, that nice story was starting to slip away.
Apparently the FBI decided to send in the big guns to try to rescue the narrative. FBI Director Jim Comey — the guy who’s been fear mongering the longest about strong encryption — put up a blog post on the surveillance apologist blog Lawfare — in which he insists that this case isn’t about all the things it’s really about:
The San Bernardino litigation isn’t about trying to set a precedent or send any kind of message.
No, he claims, it’s really because the FBI wants to “look the survivors in the eye” and say they followed every lead:
It is about the victims and justice. Fourteen people were slaughtered and many more had their lives and bodies ruined. We owe them a thorough and professional investigation under law. That’s what this is. The American people should expect nothing less from the FBI.
The particular legal issue is actually quite narrow. The relief we seek is limited and its value increasingly obsolete because the technology continues to evolve. We simply want the chance, with a search warrant, to try to guess the terrorist’s passcode without the phone essentially self-destructing and without it taking a decade to guess correctly. That’s it. We don’t want to break anyone’s encryption or set a master key loose on the land. I hope thoughtful people will take the time to understand that. Maybe the phone holds the clue to finding more terrorists. Maybe it doesn?t. But we can’t look the survivors in the eye, or ourselves in the mirror, if we don’t follow this lead.
Of course, if you know anything about the FBI and how it operates, this is guffaw inducing. There are tons of cases where the FBI doesn’t follow every lead possible. In fact, it has a pretty long history of ignoring important leads. And, lately, the FBI’s main focus seems to be on creating its own terrorist plots so it can have its agents play dress up and pretend they took down a terrorist ring. In many of those cases, the FBI failed to chase down tons of leads, and instead entrapped or framed otherwise innocent people. The idea that it suddenly is concerned with chasing down every lead is ludicrous.
The ex-wife of another deceased victim, meanwhile, said she is concerned that the court might be jeopardizing iPhone users? privacy rights.
Karen Fagan, of Upland, is the ex-wife of Harry ?Hal? Bowman and mother of their two daughters.
?This is a very different thing than asking for data that is Apple?s possession,? Fagan wrote in an email. ?They have complied with all of those requests. This is asking them to build a new piece of technology that could be used to invade the privacy of any iPhone. Furthermore, the FBI is citing an act written in 1789 (instead of new legislative action) to justify their request.
?I know that it is a tempting argument to say that we should allow government access to private information in order to make people feel safe. After all, the argument goes, people who aren?t breaking the law have nothing to hide. While that may be true, American citizens have been granted privacy rights, and this request breaches those rights,? Fagan wrote.
How will Comey look Karen Fagan in the eye and tell her he jeopardized the privacy and safety of millions of Americans just to find out that there’s nothing useful on the guy everyone already knows murdered her husband?
Comey, meanwhile, reverts back to the same talking point he’s been making for months, that he just wants a “public debate” on this:
Reflecting the context of this heart-breaking case, I hope folks will take a deep breath and stop saying the world is ending, but instead use that breath to talk to each other. Although this case is about the innocents attacked in San Bernardino, it does highlight that we have awesome new technology that creates a serious tension between two values we all treasure: privacy and safety. That tension should not be resolved by corporations that sell stuff for a living. It also should not be resolved by the FBI, which investigates for a living. It should be resolved by the American people deciding how we want to govern ourselves in a world we have never seen before. We shouldn’t drift to a place?or be pushed to a place by the loudest voices?because finding the right place, the right balance, will matter to every American for a very long time.
And yet, we’ve had that discussion and the public spoke out by buying and using tools with strong encryption — and by telling Congress they didn’t want a law outlawing strong encryption. So, contrary to Comey’s claims, it is the FBI that’s trying to force the issue by going to court over this particular search warrant.