Surprise: Pro-Surveillance WSJ Editorial Board Sides With Apple Over FBI
from the good-for-them dept
Well here’s a surprise. The Wall Street Journal Editorial board, which is notoriously pro-surveillance, has come out with an editorial that argues that Apple is right on encryption and should resist the FBI’s demands. I was not expecting that. This is the same WSJ that fought hard against amending the PATRIOT Act, which it insisted was necessary for surveillance. This is the same WSJ that published an editorial calling Ed Snowden a sociopath and arguing for less oversight of the NSA. Hell, it’s the same WSJ that a little over a year ago published a piece by former publisher L. Gordon Crovitz, arguing that Apple is crazy for not installing backdoors in its iPhones.
But, for whatever reason, in this case, the WSJ editorial board has Apple’s back. Not only that, but unlike many news reports, this piece actually seems to get the facts right and “debunks” many of the myths floating around — many that are being pushed by the FBI and its supporters:
One confusion promoted by the FBI is that its order is merely a run-of-the-mill search warrant. This is false. The FBI is invoking the 1789 All Writs Act, an otherwise unremarkable law that grants judges the authority to enforce their orders as ?necessary or appropriate.? The problem is that the All Writs Act is not a catch-all license for anything judges want to do. They can only exercise powers that Congress has granted them.
The other myth is that Apple is merely being asked to crack ?one phone in the entire world,? as Marco Rubio puts it. This is also false. The Justice Department is beseeching Apple to provide software retrofits in at least a dozen public cases, and state and local prosecutors have stacks of backlogged iPhones they want unlocked too. In the New York case Apple won this week, prosecutors want Apple to unlock an iPhone even though the owner has pleaded guilty.
The opinion piece also recognizes just how crazy it would be if the DOJ wins and how far the precedent reaches:
Congress could instruct tech makers from now on to build ?back doors? into their devices for law-enforcement use, for better or more likely worse. But this back-door debate has raged for two years. In the absence of congressional action, the courts can?t now appoint themselves as a super legislature to commandeer innocent third parties ex post facto.
What makes the FBI?s request so extraordinary is that the iPhone encryption and security methods were legal when they were created and still are. Apple has no more connection to the data on Farook?s phone than Ford does to a bank robber who uses an F-150 as a getaway vehicle.
This is all pretty accurate, which is a surprise, given how vehement the WSJ’s editorial pages have been in the past in support of greater surveillance powers. On its own the WSJ piece is a nice summary of the issue. However, given the source, it’s absolutely amazing. It suggests that, even among its usual allies, the DOJ’s arguments in favor of backdooring encryption are not working very well.