By: Jim Brown, Jim Brown's Common Sense
It sounds like a pretty straightforward request. The FBI wants to open up a criminal's iPhone to see if a future crime can be stopped. This is the scenario of the San Bernardino shooter, who certainly forfeited his privacy rights when he died in a shootout with police. So why are Apple and privacy advocates in court trying to stop the FBI from opening up the information in the shooter's phone?
If it were only that simple. The problem is that there presently is no way to get information out of the iPhone in question. The FBI could have done so initially, but the largest and most sophisticated criminal investigation agency in the world bumbled an attempt to reset the phone's password destroying any chance of gathering the phone data. The agency's own negligence locked instead of unlocking the phone.
So now, the FBI has gone to federal court in an attempt to get an order that will force Apple not just to open one iPhone, but to create and develop a whole new software that will disable security protection on all iPhones. Apple's response is that the FBI is attempting to force their company to build an entire new system, and that such a system will jeopardize the privacy of millions of Americans and private companies worldwide.
No evidence is available that indicates there is any information on the San Bernardino iPhone to aid the criminal investigation. It's a fishing expedition. The FBI lost the chance to open up the phone themselves through their own carelessness. So the Agency is willing to cast aside any concerns for the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and both the 4th and 5th Amendments, all in an effort to promote their notion that the end justifies the means.
The attorney for Apple appeared before Congress last week and testified Apple had explained to the FBI how to gather the requested iPhone data by simply connecting the phone to a known Wi-Fi connection used by the shooter. But the FBI chose to attempt to change the password. Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz from Utah asked FBI Director James Comey, "With all due respect to the FBI, they didn't do what Apple had suggested they do in order to retrieve the data, correct? I mean, when they went to change the password that kind of screwed things up, did it not?"
In a recent Republican presidential debate, Sen. Marco Rubio stated that Apple was being asked "to crack one phone in the entire world." This is of course false. Apple is being ordered to build an entirely new system that will allow the decryption of all iPhones worldwide. Hackers have already broken into the Social Security database and computers of numerous federal agencies. Do we want to put at risk the nation's most sensitive data?
And what about the ineptitude of our national defense system? Why is the National Security Agency incapable of setting up a decryption unit that has the ability to hack into an iPhone without calling on Apple's help? This raises serious questions about gathering information on terrorism by the NSA.
Former FBI agent Coleen Rowley was a guest on my syndicated radio program last week. She criticized her former agency for concentrating on merely gathering more and more information without effectively using the intelligence that is readily available. "Instead of trying to find the needle in a haystack to solve crimes, the present system just piles on more hay." What Rowley is telling us is that our protectors have become obsessed with information gathering, but have failed to follow the path of much information readily available.
Interestingly, the husband of one of the San Bernardino shooting victims is siding with Apple's concerns. He told a federal court: "Neither I, nor my wife, wants to raise our children in a world where privacy is the trade-off for security."
As the Wall Street Journal editorialized in favor of Apple's concerns, "If the government can compel a manufacturer to invent intellectual property that does not exist in order to invade its own lawful products, then there is no limiting legal principle." That should be a concern for every American.
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown's syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com
. You can also hear Jim's nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com