This battle between Apple and the FBI has waged on far too long. It should have been settled within days after it began, but those in the tech industry simply assume that the Bureau’s leaders are not well versed on modern technology.
Maybe they are and maybe they aren’t, but the CIA and NSA, as well as former leaders of both, as well as government officials, and elected representatives do exist who understand modern technology, and they’re spoken up, and stand behind Apple’s resistance to the FBI. Why doesn’t the FBI read the writing on the wall and back down?
Understand? Or, Obfuscate?
The issue between Apple and the FBI is not about technology. Surely the FBI’s leadership team, and the Department of Justice officials involved in the case, have been briefed by those who fully understand the technology and the privacy and security issues at stake.
So, what is this battle about? Power. Apple’s penchant for giving customers strong encryption which results in greater privacy and security for personal information is exactly what elements of the government– all governments– do not want. Power to the people. Government officials, in this case the FBI, want the power to do whatever they– and they alone; all those unelected bureaucrats– determine needs to be done in the interest of national security.
The reality is that those in government who wish to thwart citizen’s rights do so for a single motivation. Power. They want power over people. Ostensibly criminals, but any citizen will do if it helps to feed the power hunger. They want power over corporations (‘corporations are people, too‘) and if they cannot obtain such power, then they take all means necessary to reduce the power of others, even if that means total obfuscation.
the action of making something obscure, unclear, or unintelligible: when confronted with sharp questions they resort to obfuscation | ministers put up mealy-mouthed denials and obfuscations.
In the Apple vs. FBI and Justice Department case regarding the San Bernadino terrorist’s iPhone, the government has shown both a misunderstanding of law, and demonstrated a lack of understanding of common 21st century technology. What they want here is to create a precedent; to get Apple to cave under pressure– publicly– so future instances where access to encrypted devices is needed will be much easier to obtain; either to give the encrypted device to Apple, or to confiscate Apple’s intellectual property which can be used to create their own access method that unlocks encrypted devices.
So far, in a number of court filings, the FBI has shown a remarkable lack of understanding of how an iPhone functions, and cannot even agree in documents with what FBI officials have already stated on public record to members of Congress.
That is appalling but should not be a surprise.
Senator Lindsey Graham, an early opponent of Apple’s position vs. the FBI, said this a few weeks ago:
There is technology available to terrorists where they can communicate without—even with a court order, they can communicate without us knowing. That has to change.
The problem here, of course, is that even if the FBI had backdoor access to every iPhone in the world, that would not prohibit terrorists, criminals, and hackers from communicating with one another, or hiding incriminating evidence. They would use a different source of encryption.
Senator Lindsey Graham at a congressional hearing with Attorney General Loretta Lynch last week:
I was all with you until I actually started getting briefed by the people in the intel community. 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.
The courts may decide otherwise, but the trend among public officials, elected representatives, and technology executives is moving toward Apple’s stance and away from the government’s obvious overreach.