What The Apple vs FBI Flap Is Really About [Hint: Edward Snowden]

https://openclipart.org/user-detail/Onsemeliot edward snowden fbi nsa ted rall
Written by Ted Rall

Here’s what almost no one has been reporting. The Apple-FBI encryption flap is really all about Edward Snowden and the NSA, says Ted Rall.

ted rall apple fbi edward snowdenaNewDomain — The fight between Apple and the FBI has been framed as an epic battle between big tech and big government. Apple, says the Obama Administration, is siding with “its business model and public brand marketing strategy” ahead of public safety.

That’s not it, says Apple CEO Tim Cook. He says his company is “a staunch advocate for our customers’ privacy and personal safety.”

Donald Trump has weighed in on the controversy, ad-libbing a call for a boycott of Apple products including the iPhone, the device at the center of the debate.

The public side of the controversy began two weeks ago, when a federal court ordered Apple to write code that would allow the FBI to unlock an iPhone used by one of the gunmen in the San Bernadino mass shooting. Apple refused, saying the code could be used to unlock other iPhones, too, not just the one covered by the order. Though the FBI denied that, saying it just wanted to unlock the one gunman’s phone, a Wall Street Journal report that the feds are currently going after a dozen or so iPhones in other cases now seems to back up Apple’s argument.

The whole debate seems to center around encryption and privacy, judging from media reports. But what this is really about is Edward Snowden.

Edward_Snowden-2A few years ago, no one — left, right, libertarian — would have supported Apple’s refusal to cooperate with a federal investigation of a terrorist attack associated with a radical Islamist group, much less its decision to fight a court order to do so.

If investigators hadn’t combed through the data on the phone used by Syed Farook before he slaughtered 14 people, it would have been seen as dereliction of duty.

Obviously the authorities need to learn everything they can about Farook, such as whether he ever had direct communications with ISIS or if there were any co-conspirators. Looking at evidence like that is what law enforcement is for.

Rather than face Uncle Sam alone, Apple’s defiance is being backed by Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo — companies who suffered disastrous blows to their reputations, and billions of dollars in lost business, after NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that they spent years voluntarily turning over their customers’ data to the spy agency in its drive to “hoover up” every email, phone call, text message and video communication on the planet, including those of Americans.

Most Americans tell pollsters Apple should play ball with the FBI.

But Apple and its Silicon Valley allies aren’t banking on the popular vote.

Their biggest customers are disproportionately well-off and liberal — and they don’t want government spooks looking at their personal or business information.

Another underreported aspect of this story is the same sort of interagency squabbling that contributed to the failure of counterterrorism officials to see the whole picture before 9/11, and was supposed to have been fixed by such Bush-era bureaucratic revamps as the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and bringing America’s 16 intelligence agencies under a single director.

When you stop to think about this, it’s insane.

The NSA, specifically chartered to intercept intelligence that originates overseas — that is specifically prohibited from gathering data that is sent from one American to another American — continues to do so, probably at an even greater degree of efficiency than the period between 2009 and 2013, the era documented by the Snowden revelations leaked to the news media. Ignoring the anger of the American people, Congress did nothing to rein in the NSA. So the NSA continues to break the law, and violate our privacy, on a massive scale.

Meanwhile, the FBI — the agency that is legally authorized to eavesdrop on American citizens as part of investigations authorized by judicial warrants, can’t get into a terrorist’s smartphone … something everyone agrees it ought to be able to do.

The NSA almost certainly has the contents of Farook’s iPhone — and yours, and mine — on a server at its massive data farm in Bluffdale, Utah. Thanks to a court order and inside-the-Beltway turf battles, however, the NSA can’t/won’t turn them over to the FBI.

This is what happens when government treats citizens with contempt. Citizens return the favor.

For aNewDomain and the new SkewedNews, I’m Ted Rall.

Cover image: From openclipart.org, by Onsemeliot, All Rights Reserved.


  • “Most Americans tell pollsters Apple should play ball with the FBI” You are missing the point.

    Most of Apple’s vast earnings come from the pockets of non-Americans, most of whom beg to differ with the US administration’s view of non-Americans as untermensch, sub-human, not deserving of the human rights accorded to US citizens.

    Who knows? maybe the US politicians are happy to see Apple follow Lavabit to Germany or Switzerland.

  • FBI asking for iOS source code? No.
    FBI asking for backdoor custom iOS for global update? No.
    FBI asking for master keys? No, but if such keys exist, f*** apple for pretending security users will trust them.
    FBI only asking to unlock phone. Simply pull data under Apple technician supervision, save information, destroy phone with custom iOS when both parties agree and are satisfied under court, simple. In fact, one can’t decompile .ipkg software if the FBI had its hands on it. The hypocrisy and pony show is enraging because it was 2012 that Apple joined the NSA program. FBI is simply the child below NSA’s puppet show.

    • FBI is asking apple to build special program just for them. Since when do government can mandate who works for them?

      • If that is the case, then absolutely, I am on Apple’s side. But you cannot discount the hypocrisy of Apple and the NSA, regardless of he FBI.

        • FBI has reached out to every resource possible as they stated in front of congress. But because they failed to break the code they turned to apple who said no.
          So FBI turned legal on them. But Apple has no obligation to work with government.
          You don’t change 6 Billion peoples lives or twist laws because of one idiot. Unfortunately some people might die because the info is locked in the phone code, but the rest of us are still free. That is the bitter reality. For rest of your life you have to take your shoes off in US (not asia) and go through radiated scanners because of 9/11. When will it stop? When we all realize its all for profit?

          • What’s your point? The clueless Americans that you speak about are taking action over this, while the rest of the world full effeminated men and rising socialites of establishment power are destroying their native countries with immigration, finance and globalistic agendas. Don;t forget the world runs on American technology. Clueless Americans are as many as clueless Euros, Asians and Middle Easterners. Regardless, Apple’s is NSA’s puppet.

          • Destroying? Who gave them the civil war? Everything was fine till some countries destroyed their social values. Now that they are at your doorsteps, it suddenly is destroying native countries? How ironic…. As I said… you are clueless.

          • Let me sum it up for you. The one that controls the information controls the world. Do you really think NSA is APPLE puppet? You are witnessing shift of power and Silicon Valley is the new NSA.