WASHINGTON, April 10, 2016 — Fascists and authoritarians often advocate the expansion of state authority into the private lives of citizens in the name of public safety and order. Consider the fight between the FBI and Apple.
The FBI demanded a back door into Apple’s iOS operating system so that it could extract information from a dead terrorist’s iPhone. Apple refused. The FBI went melodramatic, raging in public about Apple’s lack of patriotism. As Rahm Immanuel said, never let a crisis go to waste.
On his way to making America great again, Donald Trump denounced Apple on Twitter. “I use both iPhone & Samsung. If Apple doesn’t give info to authorities on the terrorists I’ll only be using Samsung until they give info.” Politicians piled on from both sides of the political divide. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, was quoted by Melody Gutierrez as saying, “Apple is not above the laws of the United States, nor should anyone or any company be above the laws. To have a court warrant granted, and Apple say they are still not going to cooperate is really wrong.”
Trump is an eccentric Republican, but Senator Tom Cotton, a man once endorsed by John McCain, is more establishment. He said of Apple’s refusal to create a back door to its products, “Apple chose to protect a dead ISIS terrorist’s privacy over the security of the American people. The Executive and Legislative Branches have been working with the private sector with the hope of resolving the ‘Going Dark’ problem. Regrettably, the position Tim Cook and Apple have taken shows that they are unwilling to compromise and that legislation is likely the only way to resolve this issue.”
Time magazine asked Apple CEO Tim Cook, “if the courts rule against you, how bad will that be for Apple as a business?” Cooks replied, “Going against us means likely banning, limiting or forcing back doors for everyone. I think it’s bad for America, really bad for America.”
It is also bad for liberty and for freedom.
The role of government reflects a society’s culture. If that culture is of liberty and freedom, government is excluded from people’s private affairs. Homeland security is not set at odds with liberty in an either-or contest. Government is required to stay within limits, pursuing security without threatening everybody’s privacy.
The government hires computer scientists and programmers. If the NSA and FBI can’t hack that phone, they need to do a better job of recruiting talent. Apple has presumably paid its taxes and should not be required to degrade its product. The government can team up with whomever it wants to hack that phone, but it cannot in conscript Apple to do the job.
Opponents to this argument ignore freedom and instead strive for control. They want government to step in and guide all aspects of life. They are looking for a “big brother” to solve their problems, but ignore the even larger problems that creates.
The FBI argued it needed to compel Apple to ensure security. Luckily the White House did not panic, and there was no intervention to force Apple to act.
The FBI stepped up and did its job, finding a way to solve its problem without impinging on the liberty of Apple. In this case, for once, freedom, liberty and good sense won over tyranny and injustice.