Pew Poll Finding Majority Oppose Apple Is Premised on FBI Spin

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 9.00.37 PMImagine if Pew called 1000 people and asked, “would you support requiring Apple to make iPhones less secure so the FBI could get information on a crime the FBI has already solved?”

Respondents might find the entire question bizarre, as requiring a private company to damage its product for information on a crime the FBI had already solved would be a tremendous waste. Based on the argument I laid out here — that the information the FBI might get from Syed Rezwan Farook’s work phone wouldn’t add all that much to what they presumably already got off two phones he tried unsuccessfully to destroy, as well as the phones or iCloud accounts of his colleagues — that’s the question I think Pew should have asked in its poll.

Here’s what Pew asked :

As you may know, RANDOMIZE: [the FBI has said that accessing the iPhone is an important part of their ongoing investigation into the San Bernardino attacks] while [Apple has said that unlocking the iPhone could compromise the security of other users’ information] do you think Apple [READ; RANDOMIZE]?

To be fair to Pew, FBI has said this phone will be “important,” and to Pew’s great credit, they described Apple’s stance to be about security, not privacy.

But the fact of the matter is FBI is demanding access to this phone knowing full well who the perpetrators are — Farook and his wife — and knowing (per Admiral Mike Rogers and a slew of FBI statements before his) that the couple didn’t have overseas help. San Bernardino was, the FBI has known for months, a particularly brutal workplace killing inspired by radical Islam.

I sort of suspect Americans might think differently about this particular back door request (though maybe not another case where the phone really would be central to solving the case) if it were explained in those terms.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

7 replies
  1. orionATL says:

    apple is probably following its lawyers’ advice – “don’t try the case in public”.

    that is terrible advice in this case.

    the apple corp needs to attack the doj ( note i said “doj” not “fbi” ) with advertising in substantial, honest quantity that reveals the fanatical prosecutorial zeal of the doj over the last 15 years to spy on americans in all kinds of ways and hide it from the courts.

    apple ads should also provide accurate historical info on the doj’s repeated legal trickery or dishonesty in persuing prosecutorial success at the expense of ametican citizens’ constitutional freedom from spying (search and seizure + privacy).

    wake up, apple! at the moment you are, in effect, pleading a foolish, public relations equivalent of “nolo contendere”.

    understand, apple corp, the doj never, ever fools around with whom they fear.

  2. martin says:

    I don’t get it. The FBI is using the AWA to spin this shit, when they know damn well, once Apple gets into court, their attorneys and the EFF will kick the DOJ’s ass by countering with the CALEA. That is…unless the Judge is a dumb ass who’s owned by the NSA or is a complete Totalitarian wannabe who thinks words and statutes don’t mean what they say, and US Attorneys should be allowed to lie through their teeth with impunity.

    https://cyberlaw.stanford.edu/blog/2016/02/calea-limits-all-writs-act-and-protects-security-apples-phones

  3. Watson says:

    I don’t assume any good faith on the part of Apple’s Mr. Cook with regard to unlocking the San Berdoo iPhone, but an important argument against total surveillance is that the sleaziness of so many of our businessmen and politicians makes them vulnerable to blackmail by people with access to classified info, many of whom are also quite sleazy, e.g., J. Edgar Hoover, George Tenet, Bernie Kerik, David Petraeus, James Clapper.

  4. Fiddlin Bill says:

    There has always been a looming conflict, between any and all “rights” and the appeal to security. This is how we got “legalized” torture, and many other things. Privacy? Are you kidding? I’m glad that Apple is at least making the effort.

  5. mzchief says:

    Hmmm … maybe “the light bulbs would go on” over folks’ heads if pollees were presented with: 1) a picture of that MITM, fake base station ( Femtocells being hacked is another issue ) called an “IMSI Catcher” showing it’s just a laptop with a ~3 foot long portable antenna plus maybe a special RF signals processor box cabled in ( https://github.com/SecUpwN/Android-IMSI-Catcher-Detector/wiki/Antenna-Map-Viewer ), 2) maps showing the density of IMSI Catchers– possibly coupled with biometric devices– used from inside cars that look very much like those Google Street Cars [ http://tek-bull.com/2012/02/how-to-get-hired-for-the-google-maps-street-view-car/ ; http://www.gearthblog.com/blog/archives/2011/03/find_out_where_the_street_view_cars.html%5D driving around and maybe showing located inside “homes” in their own neighborhoods ( https://github.com/SecUpwN/Android-IMSI-Catcher-Detector/wiki/Unmasked-Spies ), 3) worldwide time-elapsed images of IMSI Catchers use ( http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2894411/Want-know-s-spying-s-app-SnoopSnitch-uses-radio-signals-nearby-tracking-devices.html ; https://opensource.srlabs.de/projects/snoopsnitch ). :)

  6. lefty665 says:

    Just heard Hayden on the radio defending secure communications. His position is that the benefits of secure comm far outweigh the occasional benefit of being able to access an individual device. He asserted that other ex DIRNSAs shared his opinion. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence his book is being released today:)

    Curiously he used the Clipper Chip argument in the ’90s as an example. He said that when NSA lost they rolled up their sleeves and went to work ushering in the most amazing 15 years in crypto history. He’s being a mite self serving there.
    .
    It’s enough to make a suspicious person infer that NSA can break Apple encryption and aren’t sharing with the bozos at FBI. As usual, nobody there can find the bathroom without a paid informant, so they’re trying to bludgeon their way in using the All Writs Act as a blunt instrument.

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