“FBI’s injustice is just leading us further down a slippery slope” by Steven Harris
The views and opinions expressed in this post solely belong, to Steven Harris
“A small event that leads to a chain reaction of events with unintended consequences that were unseen at the time of the inciting event” (1)
How we got here:
1984 began back in 2001, on 9/11/2001.
Yup, that day our government went after the suspected attackers, declared a global War on Terror, in practice a military war against an ideology set in Afghanistan and just about every country in the Middle East until it arrived at that we the citizens are the enemy to the interests of the United States. It was not enough to suck out 60% of tax dollars to sustain a dozen foreign wars (some declared, others, not they had to come for our freedoms, the ones they said they were fighting to protect from the outset. The reality is that the freedoms of Americans have been under assault since 9/11 with the USA PATRIOT Act which strips us of our hard-fought-for rights, except if you are a person of color, that would be the rights you probably wanted to have. The early 2000s is around the time we now know the National Security Agency begun to spy and collect data on all Americans in massive sweeps from the archives of whistleblower Edward Snowden—collections that products of Microsoft, Google, Cisco and other tech companies have complied willfully to allow the government in via back doors circumvented encryption touted in each company’s sales pitch and into private files with the same access as the citizens who bought these products.
This is not new information, by now this has become well-documented and noncontroversial as to it being a real situation. At the time Apple claimed to be the lone holdout—whether they decided to uphold user privacy for more phone sales against phones that willfully are cracked for the authorities as another bullet point to sell more iPhones: secure from the US government, is another story. The case remained if the FBI wanted in, they’d have to do their best to hack in.
Then the Paris attacks happened.
With the world and media on its side, French President Hollande declared a state of emergency in November 2015 which is the next best thing to ramp up spying on citizens short of an American-style USA PATRIOT Act law, which Holland is working hard to extend at present. With the police state firmly in place, based on bogus information that the attacks were coordinated in an encrypted PlayStation Network chat room they took aim at encryption. With that, the French had all they needed to take aim at one of the last remaining areas of freedom in the digital realm which is always guarded by encryption, the security technology that scrambles information so that only the intended recipient and can read it back. France wanted Apple to do what the FBI is insisting Apple do with the iPhones in everyone’s pockets. The law failed and digital privacy won. (2)(3)(4)
Then the San Bernardino attack happened.
Right-wing Republicans from California to New York immediately went to work on legislation to do what France failed to do in an example that Republican can do things, and swiftly, other than obstructing the President. The debate continues as they seek to ban, block, circumvent and create backdoors to strong encryption and with it destroy a little more our freedoms they will claim to be protecting in next election cycle. In 1984, Orwell would have called that doublespeak.
That’s how we got to where we are today with FBI standing with those states who want to abolish strong encryption in the name of the shooters in San Bernardino and have Apple build a backdoor in its popular iPhone operating system, literally letting the terrorist win by killing our own privacy, some might say. The French pressed its case with a state of emergency (cough, martial law) that’s crystallizing in a police state—the FBI is forging its case for Apple to submit with a 227-year-old All Writs Act to hammer its way into everyone’s smartphone data. (6)(7)(8)
You see, we have a slippery slope here, privacy has long been under attack, and we’re already halfway down that slippery slope.
We’re living in a strange time with our form of governance and economic system when a multinational corporation like Apple holds the interests of private citizens with more regard than a federal government funded and elected by those same private citizens. We are reaping the ill effects of political indifference and apathy to a system that has decayed and become equally apathetic to those on whose backs it is funded and supported, all the while this corporation we rail about so often, for not paying its taxes for one, can claim the moral high ground against the FBI who wants to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Strange times in America indeed.
Our freedoms, digital and otherwise, are a constant threat from those in power—the same who were fine with spying on you and me until they lost their shit when they found out sitting Congress members and even the President have been under surveillance at various points. Only then did the American people get its precious few privacy advocates among our elected officials, but it’s not nearly enough when the two chambers of Congress are lead by conservative obstructionist extremists and the public can barely be bothered to protest in a meaningful way.
It was said that “We get the politicians we deserve” and we also get the companies we deserve, as Facebook, Microsoft, and Google have not committed to similar stances as Apple, not to forget this is probably against the interest of Apple, the world’s biggest explicit profit-seeking corporation, as well if it doesn’t sell any more phones and tablets, though at least Google’s new CEO offers vestigial praise for Apple and privacy. If you read the Snowden archives or Glenn Greenwald’s 2014 book “No Place To Hide” you’ll find that Microsoft and Google and several tech companies like Cisco are complicit with the NSA and FBI and are already operating back doors. In my opinion, we are in a very dangerous place when the only protect citizens have for their privacy is a capitalist market force called differentiation. Apple really is thinking different. (9)
How did we get here again? Slippery slope.
Steven Harris is an Apple systems administrator and computer engineer for American Public Media.