White House Begins To Realize It May Have Made A Huge Mistake In Going After Apple Over iPhone Encryption
from the not-the-debate-we-wanted dept
One of the key lines that various supporters of backdooring encryption have repeated in the last year, is that they “just want to have a discussion” about the proper way to… put backdoors into encryption. Over and over again you had the likes of James Comey insisting that he wasn’t demanding backdoors, but really just wanted a “national conversation” on the issue (despite the fact we had just such a conversation in the 90s and concluded: backdoors bad, let’s move on.):
My goal today isn?t to tell people what to do. My goal is to urge our fellow citizens to participate in a conversation as a country about where we are, and where we want to be, with respect to the authority of law enforcement.
And, yet, now we’re having that conversation. Very loudly. And while the conversation really has been going on for almost two years, in the last month it moved from a conversation among tech geeks and policy wonks into the mainstream, thanks to the DOJ’s decision to force Apple to write some code that would undermine security features on the work iPhone of Syed Farook, one of the San Bernardino attackers. According to some reports, the DOJ and FBI purposely chose this case in the belief that it was a perfect “test” case for its side: one that appeared to involve “domestic terrorists” who murdered 14 people. There were reports claiming that Apple was fine fighting this case under seal, but that the DOJ purposely chose to make this request public.
However, now that this has resulted in just such a “national conversation” on the issue, the DOJ, FBI and others in the White House are suddenly realizing that perhaps the public isn’t quite as with them as they had hoped. And now there are reports that some in the White House are regretting the decision to move forward and are experiencing this well known feeling:
Officials had hoped the Apple case involving a terrorist?s iPhone would rally the public behind what they see as the need to have some access to information on smartphones. But many in the administration have begun to suspect that the F.B.I. and the Justice Department may have made a major strategic error by pushing the case into the public consciousness.
Many senior officials say an open conflict between Silicon Valley and Washington is exactly what they have been trying to avoid, especially when the Pentagon and intelligence agencies are trying to woo technology companies to come back into the government?s fold, and join the fight against the Islamic State. But it appears it is too late to confine the discussion to the back rooms in Washington or Silicon Valley.
While the various public polling on the issue has led to very mixed results, it’s pretty clear that the public did not universally swing to the government’s position on this. In fact, it appears that the more accurately the situation is described to the public, the more likely they are to side with Apple over the FBI. Given that, John Oliver’s recent video on the subject certainly isn’t good news for the DOJ.
Either way, the DOJ and FBI insisted they wanted a conversation on this, and now they’re getting it. Perhaps they should have been more careful what they wished for.