fbi v. apple decrypts candidates

As in 2016’s first eight contentious weeks, rallies, polls and posturing are similarly shaping week nine. Clinton v. Sanders and Trump v. Pope are but a couple of the headlines.

This week’s newcomer is Apple v. FBI.

If you care about this issue beyond just the headlines, I would encourage you to go and get the facts for yourself. The encrusted traditional press is pitiful when communicating the substance of the conflict, but Macworld produced a short yet excellent FAQ that will get you up to speed quickly.apple_fbi

Several issues are at play, but the important one to me is determining whether the government can compel its citizens to spend their time and treasure on assisting a criminal investigation. While most of us would be eager to help our law enforcement, it is quite another thing when they compel civic altruism from our neighbors. This is an egregious overreach by the FBI.

I do not recall the cultural prototype of Federal Law enforcement, Matt Dillon, ever deputizing a posse against their will.

As shocking as it is that the courts went along, it is more disturbing to behold the uniform public support for the FBI in this matter. Outside of the tech community, Apple has little support. The Pew Research Center poll’s only significant demographic not on the FBI’s side is left-leaning independent voters. One would naturally expect that Bernie would join his fellow left-leaning independents and come out on Apple’s side, but feeling the spotlight of the presidential campaign, he instead waffled:

“There has got to be a balance. But count me in as someone who is a very strong civil libertarian who believes we can fight terrorism without undermining our constitutional rights and our privacy rights.”

Now, in Mr. Authentic’s defense, Hillary waffled too—but we expect that from the candidate who sold her soul to the political underworld long ago.

The GOP candidates, never the sort to miss an opportunity to seize power from anyone without “Inc” in their name, uniformly weighed in on the side of truth, puppy dogs and the Hooverites. But leave it to the Bloviating Billionaire© to strike a perfect Reality TV pose going even further in calling for a boycott of Apple until they comply with the court order. In this 2016 edition of politics as sport, Trump is proving that he is indeed no mere apprentice.

I know that the Curmudgeon often sounds like a phonograph with the needle stuck in a groove, but there are certain big issues that permeate our entire national political morass. A quantitative graph of our collective tolerance for the vacuous discourses of these frauds playing us for fools would be a century old exponential curve.

The American affinity for the sound bite waxes strong.

In some ways I am more hopeful today than in recent memory that the twitterification of America can be reversed: there are numerous new-media sources succeeding with long form presentations and discussions on important social, legal and political topics. In spite of this positive trend, this Curmudgeon senses that we are still a long way from the content of a candidate’s ideas influencing more votes than their 140 character rejoinders.

It seems I am doomed to disenfranchisement for a while yet.

As an ardent civil libertarian, I am happy that Sanders at least stakes out some ground around which to defend our freedoms—as far as it goes. It is certainly nothing new to hear political elites give liberty some lip service. Virtually no American running for national office will campaign on a platform to alienate that which was formerly inalienable.

But voters seem unwilling to confront the reality that our upper caste rarely fails to say one thing while doing another. Sound-bite politics is a messy thing and Americans are peculiarly averse to holding their gladiators accountable for their words and deeds.

I applaud Tim Cook for his (smallish) stand against the accelerating over-reaching of our government. We need this reminder with awareness of the threats waning as Edward Snowden recedes further from the headlines. These politicians campaigning for leadership of the free world have made it clear that they have little care for your and my liberty. They only superficially acknowledge the competing issues that the FAQ I recommended above made clear.

As I said, this is nothing new. The hard question for you, Dear Reader, is whether our fellow Americans will ditch the newspaper, drill down deep, and remember. Whether you will remember the election rhetoric and promises.

This American will never forget their misdeeds.


26 thoughts on “fbi v. apple decrypts candidates”

  1. James Comey (FBI Director, one of our best) testifying today before House Judiciary Committee:

    “There are no demons in this debate”

    “If there are warrant-proof spaces in American life, what does that mean, what are the costs of that, and how do we think about that.”

    If you are interested in this topic, his full 6 minute opening statement is worth listening to.


    1. Its not a warrant proof space any more than burning documentation is warrant-proof. That is a straw man…classic political subterfuge.

      What is entirely ignored here is that electronic systems enable a whole new class of privacy invasion that is requires us to return to first principles and proceed from there. What he is asking for will, just like the backdoors they have sought and attained in the past, make us more vulnerable to all types of bad actors. And only some of those bad actors are in the government.


      The ability to reach out and touch someone electronically is a radically new and different thing. No matter what the alphabet soup law enforcement says about it. It is not the same as documents in my desk searched pursuant to a warrant.

      I have no doubt that allowing them access to my entire life would make us all more safe from certain classes of risks. History teaches this. The physical safety in totalitarian states of the recent past was unprecedented.

      I refuse to let scaredy-cats spook me into scurrying under the government’s skirt.


      1. Well, I recommend watching the 2+ hour Judiciary committee non-partisan adult conversation on this complex topic for those less “what pussies” sensitive. 🙂


      2. After watching the Judiciary hearing on this, I came back to say we were both wrong. I was wrong to think Apple “was just trying to get out of the helping-law-enforcement-game”, and you were wrong when you said the biggest issue was “can government compel its citizens to spend their time and treasure on assisting a criminal investigation”.

        I no longer think Apple added encryption in iOS 8 to bypass government law enforcement requests. I think they added it because they are in an arms race with the criminals, and the war has moved to cyber. It sounds like they have a dedicated department to respond to law enforcement. I also do not think Marketing or making more $ drove this, they were selling plenty of phones before iOS 8.

        I don’t think the central issue is “compelling citizens to help”, because we already have this under court warrant, and there is a test of “undue burden”. The head Apple lawyer specifically stated that was not an issue in this case.

        I think Curm gets close with what he posted here:

        “What is entirely ignored here is that electronic systems enable a whole new class of privacy invasion that is requires us to return to first principles and proceed from there. What he is asking for will, just like the backdoors they have sought and attained in the past, make us more vulnerable to all types of bad actors. And only some of those bad actors are in the government.”

        Almost everyone in the hearing seemed to agree this really isn’t “security vs privacy” issue as much as it’s a “security vs security” issue. The family members of those killed by the terrorist deserve justice, including looking at that iPhone for any information that could further serve justice, or potentially save others”. The competing security interest is more and more of our lives are moving to electronic systems and these phones (as Curm says). It’s even more complicated, because smartphones are being used as authentication devices for all kinds of critical things… hack the right persons phone and much harm can be cause WAY beyond stealing someone’s credit card numbers (think infrastructure, grids, etc.

        So to me, the big issue is government, laws, law enforcement, FBI … keeping up (staying ahead) of so much our lives moving online. I am talking about crimes and cyber terrorism, much more than loss of liberty. Curm can and will focus on that… I wish that was the biggest issue. I think Curm’s “returning to first principles” is the same thing the hearing was grappling with. For example, if a crime happens, law enforcement can gather evidence with a court order. If involved bank records, the bank would have to produce them (compelled). As the world changes, either we give law enforcement similar (first principles ?) tools, methods and power in “the cloud”, and on “electronic devices”, or we call all of it “warrant proof domain”. Curm’s “warrant proof burning documentation straw man” is, ironically, a straw man. The terrorist phone exists, i.e. evidence that exists is different than destroyed evidence. Law enforcement can use one kind, not so much the perished variety.

        The other big, related issue is no matter how big Apple is, they provide phones, not “liberty” and not “law enforcement”. Not their job… it’s our representative democracy’s job, including court decisions. The world seemed to function ok with iOS 7, Apple said our information was secure, and law enforcement could see the information on phones with a warrant. Then they created iOS 8 (for valid real-world reasons), and could no longer provide law enforcement the data on that phone WITHOUT CREATING SOMETHING NEW. Now Curm, or anyone could just say “that’s that, smartphones are no longer part of a crime scene investigation”… i.e. you can’t compel Apple to “invent” something to get into their “invention”. OR… one might say… no, don’t want to leave smartphones in a warrant-proof domain, so Apple… you were brilliant enough to create the iPhone, propose something that would work for you. They actually asked the head Apple lawyer that very thing. In context, Apple is asking the legislators to take this up and tell them what the law is, after Apple explains the consequences.

        Pick your “security vs liberty” line for yourself…. certainly a bit more complicated than “afraid” vs “liberty drama queen”. One thing is for sure, if you are a “limited government” guy, you can be quite happy because the FBI is not “ahead” of the bad guys…. with personnel, expertise, capability or budget. But hey… at least those pics are safe.


  2. “If you don’t see that as a major force, then you aren’t being realistic about the rhetoric being wielded by our political overseers.”

    Since you expressed an interest in “being realistic”, let me introduce some reality into your “liberty” desires. Politicians old trick is to 1) tell you what to be afraid of … and then 2) tell you they are the one’s to protect you from it. Guess what, they are never the one that protect you. The real people that protect you are never seen. The folks at the FBI, CIA, NSA see the ugly stuff for you and me, worry about the nightmare stuff for you and me. My guess is the vast majority of them care about their liberty just like you do. These folks are the opposite of “afraid”. They live in the ugly real world of their society demanding they protect them right up to the legal edge, without defining it, and then turning on them for making a call on that edge. Michael Hayden’s recent quote is ; “if a future president wants to waterboard someone again, they will have to bring their own bucket”. He also said the saying known by the career security types is “when something bad happens the people will ask why didn’t you protect us, and when measures are taken and people feel safer, they will ask why are you doing …”.

    Bottom line, ironically, is your “liberty” is directly tied to the success of the FBI, CIA, NSA, … If we have a major terrorist attack this year, we probably get president Trump. Mr. “more than waterboarding”, “Muslim ban”,…

    Your liberty in 2016 is directly dependent on “rational safety measures”, not a “lack of theoretical courage.” We can live in the land of delusion (I prefer it there) 🙂 , but the really bad stuff hasn’t been made up to steal Curm’s cell phone pics by the government. Try and have your “everyone’s just afraid” debate the day after a dirty bomb. Good luck with that.

    Disclaimer: this post was written by someone who has watched every episode of 24, Homeland, and Madam Secretary… I may in fact be AFRAID!!! 🙂


    1. Well OF, this is an old debate between you and I. Not sure I have much to add that I have not already said. Well, there was this statement of yours:

      The folks at the FBI, CIA, NSA see the ugly stuff for you and me, worry about the nightmare stuff for you and me. My guess is the vast majority of them care about their liberty just like you do.

      I don’t think law enforcement in general is bad people, but they do have an institutional tunnel vision that doesn’t allow them to see the larger consequences of what they are doing.

      Now the politicians…they are bad people.


      1. “Well OF, this is an old debate between you and I.”

        Oh, I thought we were having the SAME debates again, only in public. 🙂 I thought it was obvious we have already had every debate… some multiple times. Which reminds me, I think I will go back to having them in private.

        But before I go… an additional “thought” on this subject, and an additional bit of humor (you might need to delete). 🙂

        Additional thought:

        Or different angle I hadn’t considered. We differ on 1) WHERE … and on 2) WHAT BASIS to draw the “risk” vs “liberty” line. I pretty much think we should do that based on the assumption that we have already had our first WMD attack, dirty bomb, chemical, bio, etc. Seems like that is the definition of “security measures”, try and stay ahead rather than react. We reacted to 911, and you think we “overreacted” to it. Why wouldn’t we have the debate, and create the laws required, for everything from the Patriot Act, to waterboarding, to Guantanamo bay, to drones…. yada yada yada BEFORE. Some things, like “Middle east military action” would only have been possible (with citizen buy-in) after 911, but that is no excuse not have the political and legal debates when not in crisis mode. Even if your position is “there never is a crisis mode, and civil liberty lines are a fixed position”… then our government should be making THAT clear when not in crisis, so the public knows not to expect a “reaction” or “change”.

        With that in mind, here is the additional bit of information I hadn’t considered. This is again from Michael Hayden (I am not pro or con Michael Hayden, he is just in the news lately because he is promoting a book). He leans towards the big argument that Apple is making… we (citizens are safer) with encrypted products without vulnerabilities (back doors). He leans the other direction on the claim that “helping with this one iphone” creates that backdoor, and the burden of proof is on Apple to prove it creates that backdoor for all iphones. But finally… to the new thing I hadn’t considered:

        We have arrived where cyber security is a major threat rivaling all the others, WMD, etc. At the very time bad actors (sometimes countries) are conducting cyber crimes/war… it’s technology like Apple’s encryption that help guard against that. We “rightly or wrongly” put a ton of private information on these smartphones. Yep… unlike others, I am able to see gray. That is a much better argument to allow Apple to remain blind at crime scenes, than “forced neighbor posse duty”. Probably doesn’t get me to the point where big companies can set our “laws and security” for us… but certainly valid data point in the debate.

        Now… for the humor that Curm will need to delete:

        “The FBI says it only want to use the backdoor one time because it is a special occasion. Tim Cook knows if he allows the backdoor once, then the FBI will expect it all the time, start to think it’s normal, and ask why do it any other way.”

        – Trevor Noah … The Daily Show

        Bye bye 🙂


      2. To date, I’ve never deleted anything. Back doors. Front doors. I support your right to enter and exit through whichever door you might choose.

        However misguided you might be.


  3. Just listened to Tim Cook… claimed helping the FBI would be creating a cancer. Dude… your product is a “phone”, not a “cure for cancer”.

    E pluribus pluribus…. I sure hope the Millennials are less tribal.. more we-people then this generation of me-people. All I hear with most of these political and economic debates is:



    1. I can answer that OF: Millennials are far less tribal.

      I started to hit that point harder in “extinguishing the bern”. I think that while people are certainly talking about it, it is still a HUGE under reporting of a fundamental shift. I’ve worked in IT for since the 80s, and I can attest that culturally, current IT professionals sound and act NOTHING like those of the 80s. Mostly, this is a good thing. They are much more socially liberal.

      Also, having spent a lot of time at a very conservative high school, as both a parent and a teacher, I can contest that this trend crosses socioeconomic boundaries much more than most people are aware. Perhaps the most eye-opening experience was judging at a speech competition where tolerance for others was almost the only subject worthy of their attention.

      The weakness of these Millennials is a complete lack of appreciation for the positive aspects of the institutions that they are inheriting. They have been raised relatively affluent, and have little understanding of how difficult attaining the level of prosperity into which they were born was. This is the reason that Bernie’s wealth distribution ideas are so appealing to them.


      1. “This is the reason that Bernie’s wealth distribution ideas are so appealing to them.”

        I hope they also care less about discerning between the “deserving poor” and the “undeserving poor”. Perhaps because of your reference of “hard work by many to obtain xxx”, there is deep hate/suspicion of someone getting something they don’t deserve. I have experienced it from family members. I give a guy asking for $ in a parking lot some $, and a family member says “he is just playing you”. My response is, perhaps, but how do you know. How many that really need the help are you willing to ignore in order not to give that “undeserving one” the help. I read a book once written by someone who worked at the Economist, and had spent much time here in the US explain the difference between social policy in the US vs Britain. Basically it was this: “In the US, we spend a lot of time discerning between the deserving and undeserving poor. In Britain, we just stop at “the poor”.

        Tolerance is a great first step, hope it leads to a broader perspective and design of safety-nets beyond “personal responsibility”. Hope they… using your words I think… drill down on that a bit deeper.

        How did I get here from a $trillion company trying to tell the US FBI “I will pass on helping you with that Terrorist’s iPhone”? Oh, I remember. ME-people thinking any remote risk of “their phone stuff getting seen” is more important than our FBI having access to items found at a terrorist crime scene… that was it. Civil Liberty violation slippery slope vs known terrorist and known terrorist act and the terrorist iPhone. Yeah… really tough call… NOT.

        Law enforcement, including ex-NSA Director Michael Hayden frame it very simply. Apple needs to make it’s case that “looking at this phone’s contents” is what they say it is… “a permanent backdoor”. Make your case Apple. I for one hope you lose.


  4. Good story. I didn’t know the candidates positions on the matter. I had no idea the support for the Patriot Act had been so strong.

    Doesn’t that kind of tell you (Curmudgeon) that you are out of step with Americans on your views regarding privacy? I don’t recall that much agreement in congress over anything else.


    1. Heck RealDeal-I’m POSITIVE that I’m out of step with Americans on a lot of things. Catharsis is the point of my writing.

      The sad thing is that it takes so much unity to get Congress to actually act. But more importantly, this is evidence of a failure of leadership. The voices of concern for the civil liberties nightmare which is the Patriot Act were almost completely silent. There was very little actual debate.

      The 4th Amendment went down with nary a wimper. Ah well…we shredded the rest of the constitution so not much lost I suppose.


      1. That’s a bit extreme regarding the constitution isn’t it? The Congress seems to think that the constitution still matters.

        I agree (I think) that there was not enough discussion of the issues around the Patriot Act. I wasn’t paying close attention at the time I admit, but I don’t remember much objection. Maybe I just don’t remember.


      2. Curm: “The sad thing is that it takes so much unity to get Congress to actually act. But more importantly, this is evidence of a failure of leadership.”

        One person’s sad thing is another persons happy thing. I give thanks for the failure in leadership in America. It means the system works. The last thing those escaping far reaches of the world wanted when coming to America was to be led by anyone. The monarchs, dictators, and mobs (democracy) were leading the heck out of them in the old world. They wanted to put as much distance from themselves and all that leadership that they could, so they set sail for a month to a place they had never met, so as not to be led.

        They wisely told Great Britain what to do with their leadership and then they brilliantly hamstrung any future US leadership by having first, the Articles of Confederation where unanimous consent of a group of unpaid people who would never be in the same place at the same time, no provision for taxation or funding, just basically, the best of all worlds.

        But secondly, those softies relented somewhat and created the Constitution that embodied the same goal of failure of leadership that had served so well before. But alas, the checks and balances of voluntary association, intent of the actual words, amendments that sidestepped valuable controls on overreach, all to where if you “have a phone and a pen” (and the media in your lap), you don’t even need the other branches of government.

        The unity of leadership is best evidenced in a single individual: Hugo Chavez, Khrushchev, Mugabe, Lenin, Kai-shek. Now there’s true leadership for you.

        Curm: “Heck RealDeal-I’m POSITIVE that I’m out of step with Americans on a lot of things.”

        Me too.

        [PS: I hope you’re OK with me stretching my wings on these off issues. :-)]


      3. Prof, first let me say you are always welcome to say whatever you want here. I am still pretty libertarian in most ways. 😀

        But I disagree with you on leadership I think. I do think leadership is important. But I also think one of our national strengths is that in spite of pathetic leadership, we often still succeed. But I can see many times in our history that without effective leadership, we would not have fared so well.

        To the extent you are talking about the built in bias of our system to change slowly, I agree with your view. That does not mean, however, that we do not need to increase our rate of change in a number of areas. I do think we deserve capable leadership that is vigorously pursing our national interests and this includes a congress that is comprised of people that represents their constituents rather than their donors.

        I don’t think the Constitution was institutionalize a failure of leadership, but rather creating institutions to constrain government in ways that were conducive to liberty.


    1. One person’s “rational” safety measure is another’s fear. It is hard for me to view all the stupidity of the post 9-11 world as not fear driven. If you don’t see that as a major force, then you aren’t being realistic about the rhetoric being wielded by our political overseers.

      Now, it doesn’t surprise me that the FBI scares you less than I. Facing one’s misguided beliefs is about the scariest thing imaginable.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “It is hard for me to view all the stupidity of the post 9-11 world as not fear driven.”

        You are having a bad stretch with exaggeration… first “ALL” and now straight to “EVIL” and “FEAR”. Buy some gray and sprinkle it into your world.

        You are also low energy.


      2. All stupidity. Yeah…that is well qualified.

        But now that I think about, there isn’t much about our governments 9-11 reaction that wasn’t stupid, so the qualification is pretty limited.


      3. Curm: “It is hard for me to view all the stupidity of the post 9-11 world as not fear driven. ”

        “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety), by menacing it with an endless series of Hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” – H.L. Mencken, 1918.

        A clamoring populace will vote away liberty and for anything that even hints at security, regardless of how contrary to logic and easily forgotten history it is on its face.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Yup Prof. That is how we ended up with the Alien and Sedition Acts, Espionage Act of 1917, and Executive Order No. 9066 … to name a few over-reaches in the name of security. But we never learn.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Drama Queen much?

    Good vs Evil… Really?

    This isn’t about Apple mandated posse duty. Apple wanted out of the “assist law enforcement” duty, and they changed iOS accordingly. It really is as simple as that… can anyone offering products and services in our society take proactive measures to “NOT assist law enforcement”. Argue it over that “balance”, not the “good vs evil”.

    “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”


    1. Yes. Its about balance. Balancing privacy rights (good) v. fear (evil). It really is that simple. 😀

      So, OF, are you saying that if Apple had implemented iOS encryption originally with the encryption protection it has now that the situation would be different? I’m not sure what your point is there.

      Its all kind of moot anyway. Whatever the hyperventilating safety-above-all crowd implements in the US that compromises the security of American made products will be irrelevant as competing products come into the market from outside the US. This is already happening. The world cares about privacy even if naïve Americans do not.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s