Senator Lindsey Graham Finally Talks To Tech Experts, Switches Side In FBI V. Apple Fight
from the a-road-to-Cupertino-conversion dept
Our nation is at war and this iPhone was used to kill Americans. We need to protect our homeland, not terrorists. To Tim Cook and Apple, cooperate with the FBI.
As surprised as we were to learn it was an iPhone that killed 14 people in San Bernardino, rather than the attackers and the weapons they wielded, Graham had yet another surprise in store for us.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who last December called on Silicon Valley to stop selling encrypted devices, expressed serious concern on Wednesday about the precedent the Department of Justice would set if it successfully compels Apple to break iPhone security features.
“I was all with you until I actually started getting briefed by the people in the Intel Community,” Graham told Attorney General Loretta Lynch during an oversight hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I will say that I’m a person that’s been moved by the arguments about the precedent we set and the damage we might be doing to our own national security.”
This is what happens when legislators stop following their gut instincts on subjects they know little about and actually seek input from those who do know what’s involved and what’s at stake. Graham — without speaking to “people in the Intel Community” — originally presented terrorism as Apple’s problem. With the benefit of technically-adept hindsight, Graham is now seeing this for what it is: a push for a dangerous precedent that won’t end with this one iPhone and Apple. It will move on to other manufacturers, service providers and communications platforms. Because this one iPhone (which is actually twelve iPhones) is just the foot in the door. Apple does not hold a monopoly on encrypted communications.
“One of the arguments Apple makes is that there are other companies that make encryption,” Graham said to Lynch during the hearing. “So from a terrorist point of view, you’re not limited to Apple’s iPhone to communicate are you?”
“I think the terrorists use any device they can to communicate,” the Attorney General responded.
“So this encryption issue, if you require Apple to unlock that phone that doesn’t deny terrorist the ability to communicate privately does it, there are others ways they can do this,” Graham noted.
The FBI — which sees any communications it can’t access as nothing more than a collection of smoking guns comprised of 0s and 1s — will not stop with Apple. It already has its eyes on WhatsApp, one of the biggest messaging apps in the world — one that also features end-to-end encryption.
The underlying point Graham is making — having now spoken with those with the most at stake — is that a successful push to force American companies to provide unprecedented access to law enforcement does little to stop global terrorism, while causing tremendous damage to those forced into complicity. If the FBI manages to pry open the front door, every other nation in the world is going expect Apple to hold the door open for them as well. And if they can’t find a way to force Apple to do that, they may block it from selling its products in their countries. Or Apple may decide the market isn’t worth the security hit. Either way, it hurts Apple, and terrorists will just move on to the next service/platform/manufacturer.
It’s heartening to see Graham come around on this, especially considering he’s spent the last few months coming down harshly on phone manufacturers for refusing to immediately comply with every ridiculous government demand.