Even The Surveillance-Loving Wall Street Journal Is Bashing The FBI For Its War With Apple

from the didn't-see-that-one-coming dept

The Wall Street Journal has been a reliably pro-surveillance voice over the years, calling Snowden a "sociopath" while calling for even less NSA oversight, making up bizarre conspiracy theories, and fighting back against any surveillance reform. It even once argued that the tech industry should put backdoors into its encryption to better help the surveillance state.

That's what makes its recent editorial, The Encryption Farce (possibly behind a paywall, though the version I just opened showed up fine), so remarkable. It completely bashes the FBI over its attempts to force Apple to build a backdoor into its encryption -- though mainly because of the ridiculous fact that in the two most high profile cases, the DOJ magically got into the phones just as the cases got serious. The WSJ editorial doesn't pull any punches, asking what the hell is going on at the Justice Department:
If history repeats itself first as tragedy and then as farce, what does the FBI have in store next for its encryption war with Apple? After withdrawing its demands in San Bernardino and then reopening hostilities with a drug prosecution in Brooklyn, the G-men abruptly dumped the second case over the weekend too. Is anyone in charge at the Justice Department, or are junior prosecutors running the joint?
The editorial goes on to mock the FBI's claim that these cases are all about getting into just that phone, and notes that constantly finding ways in at the last minute are destroying the FBI's credibility.
This second immaculate conception in as many months further undermines the FBI’s credibility about its technological capabilities. Judges ought to exercise far more scrutiny in future decryption cases even as Mr. Comey continues to pose as helpless.
It goes on to suggest that the FBI stop bringing these cases, and that the President and the DOJ should put an end to this ridiculous attack on encryption:
Yet forgive us if this “conversation” now seems more like a Jim Comey monologue. The debate might start to be productive if the FBI Director would stop trying to use the courts as an ad hoc policy tool and promised not to bring any more cases like the one in Brooklyn.

Meanwhile, the White House has taken the profile-in-courage stand of refusing to endorse or oppose any encryption bill that Congress may propose. If the Obama team won’t start adjusting to the technological realities of strong and legal encryption, they could at least exercise some adult supervision at Main Justice.
On its own, such an editorial might not seem like a huge deal, but coming from the Wall Street Journal -- a source that has previously championed much greater surveillance and even supported backdoors -- it's a surprising shift. And it shows just how badly the DOJ and FBI miscalculated in their attempts to use the courts to get their desired results in breaking encryption.

Filed Under: all writs act, doj, encryption, fbi
Companies: apple, wall street journal


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  • icon
    Ehud Gavron (profile), 28 Apr 2016 @ 9:41am

    paywall

    The article is behind a paywall. If you click directly above you will get the first paragraph and an invitation to sign in or sign up.

    If, however, you go to news.google.com, type "The Encryption Farce" into the search bar, and click on the story link from there, it will work fine. (Note: it's the same link, but the referrer page of google news will get you in).

    Ehud

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 28 Apr 2016 @ 10:19am

      Re: paywall

      The article is behind a paywall

      Sometimes. I followed a link from Twitter and it was not. I later followed another link from Twitter and it was.

      If, however, you go to news.google.com, type "The Encryption Farce" into the search bar, and click on the story link from there, it will work fine. (Note: it's the same link, but the referrer page of google news will get you in).

      Sometimes. For whatever reason, this well known "trick" only works about 80% of the time. Most of the time it works. Sometimes it does not.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2016 @ 10:51am

      Re: paywall

      Didn't work for me. Got the same paywall through Google. WSJ isn't my local newspaper. For a single article it is not enough that I am going to subscribe just to see it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2016 @ 10:12am

    this is really surprising. testament to how out-of-control our justice dept truly is.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2016 @ 10:28am

    It may be that Google has a "first hit's free" arrangement with the WSJ paywall that sometimes works, sometimes not.

    Also, Senators Dumb and Dumber have an op-ed in the WSJ making the usual silly arguments (e.g. "durrrr, people let corporations have personal information, so what's the big deal if the government grabs it?"). They are getting pretty thoroughly eviscerated in the comments thread.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2016 @ 1:39pm

      Re:

      Maybe someone should point out to the good Senators that neither facebook nor google has ever called in a drone strike, performed an extreme rendition, or performed an extrajudicial killing of any of their customers based on metadata. To do so would go against their business interests.

      The same cannot be said of the USG.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Richard O, 28 Apr 2016 @ 11:05am

    Do you think that maybe the WSJ, while following the attacks on Apple, finally realized the someone might just end up coming after their phones?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2016 @ 1:41pm

      Re:

      Maybe one of the reporters pointed out to the editorial board at the WSJ that if some of these things come to pass, they'll result in the end of the ability to use anonymous sources legally?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    picked ridged and plucked, 28 Apr 2016 @ 6:43pm

    ponked ponky ponk

    you should stop linking or talking about paywalled stuff even though the idiots are all starting to do it. Seriously just STOP linking to this type of corporate stealing bait article in a linked paywalled way.

    now ponky can sleep while being ponked.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2016 @ 10:34pm

      Re: ponked ponky ponk

      I agree!

      Wired is the latest to get removed from my feeds. They don't want me to read their crap anyway so I complied.

      WSJ has been on my blacklist for a long time.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Carnivorous Edward, 29 Apr 2016 @ 3:39pm

    Meanwhile at the FBI Building

    Comey's office contains (if you can see into the container) an angry, defeated Comey, wearing a hole in the carpet and muttering cruel oaths under his fetid breath. "Drat!" he bellows through gnashed teeth, "my own team, turnin' on me like I wuz a common stoolie! Awright!" he says in a tortured, yet unconvincing prohibition-era accent "have the tech dept go back to interrogating squirrels, we're goin' after Wall Street!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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