Former FBI Assistant Director Makes a Compelling Case to Eliminate the Corporation

Former FBI Assistant Director apparently isn’t afraid to embarrass himself to fear monger for law enforcement.

That’s the only conclusion I can reach by his penning this op-ed, which still bears its original title in the URL.

In it, Ronald T. Hosko claimed shamelessly that if Apple had been employing its new encryption plans earlier this year, a kidnap victim the FBI rescued would be dead. The two nut paragraphs originally read,

Hosko Fearmongering

It made no sense! As Hosko correctly explained, they solved this case with lawful intercepts of phone content.

Once we identified potential conspirators, we quickly requested and secured the legal authority to intercept phone calls and text messages on multiple devices.

Even if the kidnappers had a new iPhone, FBI would still go to precisely the same source they did go to — the telecom providers — to get the intercepts. The FBI never even had the actual phones of kidnappers in hand — except for the phone the gang leader used to direct the plot from prison, which he crushed before it could be investigated, a technology that has been available to thugs far longer than encryption has.

So it is quite clear that, had this technology been used by the conspirators in this case, the FBI would still have caught them, using precisely the same process they did use to catch them..

After Hosko got called on his false claims on Twitter, he made two corrections — first to this interim fallback. (h/t @empirical error for catching this)


That didn’t make any more sense, as they were tracing calls made from the kidnappers. Once they got close enough to examine their actual devices, they had the kidnappers. Now he has changed it to read:

Last week, Apple and Google announced that their new operating systemswill be encrypted by default. Encrypting a phone doesn’t make it any harder to tap, or “lawfully intercept” calls. But it does limit law enforcement’s access to a data, contacts, photos and email stored on the phone itself.

That kind information can help law enforcement officials solve big cases quickly. For example, criminals sometimes avoid phone interception by communicating plans via Snapchat or video. Their phones contain contacts, texts, and geo-tagged data that can help police track down accomplices. These new rules will make it impossible for us to access that information. They will create needless delays that could cost victims their lives.*


Editors note: This story incorrectly stated that Apple and Google’s new encryption rules would have hindered law enforcement’s ability to rescue the kidnap victim in Wake Forest, N.C. This is not the case. The piece has been corrected.

Phew. Apparently all this surveillance technology is hard to keep straight, even for an experienced FBI guy. But the truly funny part of Hosko’s piece — now that he at least has some semblance of factual accuracy (though I think he’s still exaggerating about video and Snapchat) — is where he suggests that we should not avail ourselves of any technologies that make it easier on criminals.

If our cutting edge technologies are designed to keep important dots out of the hands of our government, we all might start thinking about how safe and secure we will be when the most tech-savvy, dedicated criminals exponentially increase their own success rates​.

This would lead you to believe Hosko is unaware of the “cutting edge technology” that has probably kept more crime-solving information out of the hands of the government than any measly encryption: incorporation. Drug cartels, human traffickers, even dreaded banksters all use shell corporations as a favored technology to not only hide the evidence of their crime, but to dodge accountability if it ever is discovered. That snazzy technology, the corporation, has empowered criminals far more than cell phone encryption — with all the possible workarounds — will ever do.

Yet if you called for eliminating a beneficial technology like the corporation just because criminals also happen to find it useful, people would consider you batshit insane. It would be a totally disproportionate measure, trading away real benefits in the name of relative but not absolute safety.

But hey! Hosko has already embarrassed himself. So if he feels like doing so again, by all means, I implore him to call for the elimination of the corporation — or even just a few of the exotic financial tools that the most dangerous financial criminals use.

After all, it will make us safer!

9 replies
  1. Snarki, child of Loki says:

    “Corporation” is a “beneficial technology”?

    Sure, like “fire”, a potentially dangerous but very useful technology. Last I heard, “fire” doesn’t spend billions in lobbying and politics to shut down fire departments.

    • bloopie2 says:

      Yes, corporation is a beneficial technology. It enables you to start a company and sell to the public without risking your all of your family’s personal assets. Sure, it can be abused, but so can most technologies.

      Anyhow, I propose that, in addition to corporations, we ban the following beneficial technologies that hinder law enforcement: doors; masks; window shades; envelopes you can’t see through; passwords; and cars that can be used for getaways (that last one leavs out my 2002 Suburban, fortunately for me).

      I wonder how cops used to solve crimes before radio-style communications. Should we ask Mr. Sherlock Holmes?

      • P J Evans says:

        Or run a seance to talk with J Edgar, or Elliot Ness, who didn’t have all these newfangled technologies and still somehow caught bad guys.

        • bloopie2 says:

          Wait a minute, though. Didn’t those old-time cops do a lot of things we wouldn’t quite approve of today, like wiretapping (Hoover)? And wasn’t that staple of “the good old days”, the friendly cop who walked a beat, someone who would whup you if you were bad, and otherwise take assorted liberties with your liberties? The only difference I see is that those cops were “good at heart” (or so it appears from the way they have been portrayed) while they terrorized you, while today’s cops are authoritarian bullies and thugs (from personal experience) who have no redeeming good intent behind what they do. Either one, I think, would illegally grab your phone from you; but yesterday’s would return it to your mother with a gentle warning, while today’s will search it to find evidence of a crime to charge you with.

        • P J Evans says:

          Who said anything about those of the past being good at heart, or kindly? They were doing everything that current LEOs do, except, possibly, searching with the intent to criminate you. I was thinking more of things like the ‘border zone’ and the warrantless surveillance of everyone.

  2. jo6pac says:

    I for one welcome apple and google doing something about this subject. Then again since they both are in bed with govt. and it will be corp. that saves all that’s gathered maybe this will help those companies bottom line. The govt. will want so data and will use tax payers dollars to buy it from them. I’m pretty sure my tin foil hat isn’t on to tight;)

  3. wallace says:

    quote”This would lead you to believe Hosko is unaware of the “cutting edge technology” that has probably kept more crime-solving information out of the hands of the government than any measly encryption: incorporation. Drug cartels, human traffickers, even dreaded banksters all use shell corporations as a favored technology to not only hide the evidence of their crime, but to dodge accountability if it ever is discovered.”unquote

    Gak! The most criminal organization known to mankind EVAH!! The Dreaded Banker’s Corporation!!! The mere mention of which sends shivers of FEAH down the spine of main street citizenry!! YES YES! I agree with the FBI dude!! I mean. They need this power to Un-Constitutionally TRACK down The Dreaded Banker’s!!!! After all..they’re bona fide CORPORATE TERRAISTS!! I bet the entire Wall Street was camped out all night waiting to be the first to get their hands on APPLE’S NEW TERRORIST TOOL.. the iPhone6!! GAK!!

    emptywheel… you crack me up.

    Meanwhile, this FBI schmuck fails to mention a hundreds of their pals in crime under the cover of law, the DOJ just got outted for their brazen criminality, although not a single one of these USG criminals will be put behind bars….notwithstanding FBI murderers..

    Not to mention parallel construction. Or the secrit SOD!! Even Bill Binney sees the evolution of the Stasi State information sharing…

    And this FBI schmuck is crying. Unbelievable.

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