Tag Archives: Federal Bureau of Investigation

Farook’s Phone: The FBI versus Apple (and Everyone Else)

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The Federal Bureau of Investigation wants to know what’s on Syed Farook’s Apple iPhone. As the old saying goes, people in hell want icewater too.

The San Bernardino killer’s phone is encrypted. More than ten attempts to guess the correct six-digit pass code (out of a million possibilities) will result in destruction of all data on the phone. They’re stuck. At least they say they are (I’m skeptical). They want Apple to help.

Forcing Apple to do so would be a simple matter of issuing a subpoena if the company had the information in question, but it doesn’t. So the FBI wants Apple to create an entirely new version of its operating system that allows them to bypass the ten-try limit. And  a federal judge, citing an 18th century law called the All Writs Act, has ordered Apple to just that.

As I write this, Apple has, quite reasonably, refused the demand. Presumably there’s a court battle in the offing.

Apple should win in the courts, and in any event what the FBI is demanding should be impossible. If what the FBI is demanding isn’t impossible on this generation of iPhones, Apple should be working overtime on a system update that MAKES it impossible , just in case the courts side with the FBI.

This is not about Syed Farook, nor is it the equivalent of a demand to hand over the key to an apartment because the cops have a search warrant. This is about you, and it’s the equivalent of a demand to hand over the keys to 700 million apartments just in case the cops ever take a notion to rummage around in your closet.

Am I worried? No, and yes.

No, because if Apple folds and does the FBI’s will, people who value their privacy will simply switch to devices and/or third party encryption software that neither the FBI nor Apple can compromise in that particular way.

Yes, because this is a red line in terms of precedent. The US government has been at war on the rights and the privacy of every phone and computer user in the world for decades, but this is an open declaration of that war, the moment when the gloves come off.

The state doesn’t own your phone. The state doesn’t own your data. The state doesn’t own YOU. Time to put the tyrants on notice: We’re all out of icewater, fellas.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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Security Theater: Fake Bullets Over Broadway

English: FBI Mobile Command Center in Washingt...
FBI Mobile Command Center in Washington DC. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Federal Bureau of Investigation agents arrested two New York City women, Noelle Velentzas and  Asia Siddiqui, on April 2. The two were charged with conspiring to build and detonate a bomb in the style of the 2013 Boston Marathon attack. After more than a year of talking about it, they hadn’t actually done anything about it. Reasonable people might conclude they just relished terror trash talk.

On April 10, the FBI arrested Topeka, Kansas resident John T. Booker as he attempted to arm a 1,000 pound bomb outside the US Army base at Fort Riley. The bomb was fake, as was the entire plan for the attack, drummed up and pushed at Booker by undercover federal agents. The FBI knew that Booker was mentally ill. In fact, two of its agents had taken Booker to a local Muslim imam in 2014 to procure counseling for him, telling the imam that Booker suffered from bipolar disorder.

G-Men Thwart Islamist Bomb Plot! Like a TV series that keeps getting renewed despite dismal ratings, some variant of that headline pops up every few days. And like that imaginary TV series — “How I Foiled Your Jihadist?” — the whole thing consists largely of recycled plot lines and cheap special effects.

What we’re watching is not a war on terror. It’s not desperate police work versus very dire, and very real, threats. It’s theater, scripted entirely for public consumption and for the purpose of maintaining the post-9/11 “homeland security” funding bonanza.

As of 2001, the FBI’s annual budget came to $3.3 billion (that’s $4.4 billion in inflated 2015 dollars). Its 2014 budget weighed in at nearly twice the spending: $8.3 billion. Director James Comey’s 2016 budget request would increase that to $8.48 billion. In his March statement to the US Senate committee evaluating that request, his top sales point was that “the terrorist threat against the United States remains persistent and acute.”

But that “terrorist threat” is, to all appearances, largely manufactured by the FBI itself. And as for real terrorist threats, we know how to reduce them: By ending the foreign military adventurism that has, each and every time, preceded and been used as justification for terror attacks on US soil.

The solution to terrorism isn’t to give James Comey more money to spend creating fake terrorists. It’s to give US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter less money to spend creating real ones.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

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