Does Apple secretly hate America?
As I’m sure you know, Apple and the DOJ are in a slap-fight right now over two iPhones owned by Mohammed Alshamrani — the Saudi national who killed three people and wounded eight more at Florida’s Pensacola Naval Air Station last month.
This is the second time in the last few years that Apple and The Feds have butted heads over access to information in terrorists’ iPhones that could potentially enhance our national security and make our country safer.
Back in 2016, Apple and the FBI went several rounds over an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters (both of which had ties to Saudi Arabia, by the way), Syed Farook, an employee of San Bernardino County. This work-issued phone yielded little, if any, useful information when it was eventually cracked by a third-party company contracted by the DOJ.
But it’s important to note that both of the San Bernardino shooters destroyed their personal cell phones immediately prior to their murderous rampage. Similarly, Alshamrani also attempted to destroy his iPhones (he had two of them) before his attack in Pensacola — but they reportedly remained intact enough to be accessible.
This puts Apple on the hot seat once again, in more ways than one.
Should Apple cave to The Man or hang tough to their principles?
Apple is in a bit of a jam here, as I see it.
On the one hand, Silicon Valley, the technology press, and much of the mainstream media seem firmly behind Apple’s long-term, consistent stance of non-cooperation with law enforcement (at all levels, not just federal) when it comes to cracking their iPhones…
But on the other hand, several surveys conducted in the wake of the San Bernardino attacks reveal that the general public — the American consumers who actually buy iPhones by the millions — may seem to favor the long-arm-of-the-law view in these matters, by varying margins.
One such survey, conducted by Pew Research in February of 2016, scored 51% to 38% in favor of the DOJ’s position, with almost identical support across party lines. Even among iPhone users specifically, 47% of the respondents in that survey said Apple should comply with FBI demands to unlock the shooters’ one surviving iPhone, while 43% favored steadfast resistance.
Flash forward to now, and although I can’t find any new public opinion data as of the time I’m writing this…
There’s president Trump, who’s clearly losing patience with Apple, judging by his January 14th Tweet. There’s also the enormous legal pressure the DOJ could bring to bear against the company if they fail to comply with AG William Barr’s request to help unlock the Pensacola shooter’s damaged iPhones.
Put another way, Apple got lucky back in 2016 because the Feds were able to crack the iPhone in question without their help.
And since nothing of value was found on it, the Obama administration quietly let Apple off the hook for fear of pissing off the media, tech community, and millions of young, i-Crazy hipster gadget geeks across the country — the vast majority of them valuable Democrat constituents, by all indications.
But I digress. Between the factors I mentioned a moment ago, and the iPhone’s growing reputation as the smartphone of choice among terrorists…
It would be very easy for Apple — if they don’t play their cards exactly right — to end up looking like they secretly hate the country that made them one of the greatest and most powerful companies in the world.
I don’t believe Apple hates America at all, though…
I think they hate what America is becoming: A secretive, unaccountable, out-of-control surveillance state where liberty, privacy, and individual rights are more and more subservient to some vague, abstract concept of “security” that only the government is allowed to define.
Choose your spy: Big Tech or Big Brother
Apple’s published Q&A response to the Pensacola terrorist situation (page title: Answers to your questions about Apple and security) does a pretty good job of articulating their position.
A few excerpts, chosen and highlighted by me to illustrate the point:
It would be wrong to intentionally weaken our products with a government-ordered backdoor… the order would set a legal precedent that would expand the powers of the government and we simply don’t know where that would lead us. Should the government be allowed to order us to create other capabilities for surveillance purposes, such as recording conversations or location tracking?
Yes, it is certainly possible to create an entirely new operating system to undermine our security features as the government wants. But it’s something we believe is too dangerous to do. The only way to guarantee that such a powerful tool isn’t abused and doesn’t fall into the wrong hands is to never create it.
Law enforcement agents around the country have already said they have hundreds of iPhones they want Apple to unlock if the FBI wins this case. In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks. Of course, Apple would do our best to protect that key, but in a world where all of our data is under constant threat, it would be relentlessly attacked by hackers and cybercriminals.
To me, that last excerpt is the most frightening one of all…
The notion that every strata of law enforcement in this nation eagerly awaits the outcome of this affair, in hopes that they’ll soon be able to pry even further into our private lives to use our data against us, if they so choose.
If this precedent is set, it’ll only encourage law enforcement agencies of all kinds to keep growing and growing in size and power like cancer cells until America’s not just a surveillance state — but a police state.
I said earlier that Apple is in a jam on this one…
But all this crap puts millions of regular folks like you and me between a rock and a hard place, too. Because the rise of technology is inexorable, and it can only be stopped by total obliteration.
So tech’s a given. We must deal with it, and find ways to limit its scope or channel its application into things that are good for us.
We also have to prevent tech companies from becoming all-powerful, and above the law, like the Tyrell corporation in Blade Runner.
We can see the potential for this kind of thing in some of today’s big tech firms, like Amazon, Facebook, Google — Apple, too — and it should worry us all.
But again, what I think should worry us even more is technology being pressed into service to feed government’s insatiable appetite for power and expansion…
Which has been proven time and again, in every corner of the globe, for millennia.
Jefferson described this tendency perfectly back in 1788, when he wrote: “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield, and government to gain ground.”
For me, the bottom line is this: The cure can’t be worse than the disease.
Yes, I want a safe nation, without the constant fear of terrorism and attack…
But I’m more afraid of technology that’s been invented for the wrong reasons and that’s controlled by an overreaching government than I fear isolated terror attacks.
Apple’s right on that score: Once you start inventing backdoors and shortcuts and skeleton keys that allow governments to access private data…
You actually weaken security by inviting hacking attacks, and showing the world that your firewalls are breach-able.
But beyond all that, there’s the simple fact that if Washington could be trusted to use surveillance, tracking, and other technologies in the right ways, and not abuse them in all the wrong ways (see also: Snowden, Comey, Holder, Clapper, etc.)…
And if they used good old fashioned common sense to keep the wrong people out, no matter who it offends…
And if they’d just let us carry guns to protect ourselves from terrorists, like it says in the damn Constitution they ignore or champion only as it suits them…
They wouldn’t have to try to force Apple and other great American technology companies to become another branch of law enforcement in the United States.
I don’t know about you, but when it comes to my own security and privacy…
I’d rather have Big Tech watching and recording my every move than Big Brother. Because at least so far, Big Tech is only really trying to sell me something.
That means they need to satisfy me and make me happy on some level, doesn’t it?
Not sure I can say the same for our Big Brother government.
Freedoms Editor, Whiskey & Gunpowder
P.S. The third and final installment of Marty Robinson’s 3-Part series on Barack Obama and the Red-Green Alliance is under construction. So stay tuned in the coming days as we bring it straight to your inbox!