This Apple Fight Is (Partly) about Solving Car Accidents

I am going to spend my day laying out what a cynical man FBI Director Jim Comey is — from setting up a victims’ brief against Apple even before the government served Apple here, to this transparently bogus garbage post at Lawfare.

But first I wanted to reemphasize a detail I’ve noted before. On February 9, at a time when FBI already knew how it was going to go after Apple, Jim Comey said this in a hearing to the Senate Intelligence Committee:

I’d say this problem we call going dark, which as Director Clapper mentioned, is the growing use of encryption, both to lock devices when they sit there and to cover communications as they move over fiber optic cables is actually overwhelmingly affecting law enforcement. Because it affects cops and prosecutors and sheriffs and detectives trying to make murder cases, car accident cases, kidnapping cases, drug cases. It has an impact on our national security work, but overwhelmingly this is a problem that local law enforcement sees.

Even before he served Apple here, Comey made it clear this was about law enforcement, not terrorism cases, his cynical invocation of the San Bernardino victims notwithstanding.

And not just law enforcement: “car accidents.”

Since it got its All Writs Act, FBI has said this Apple request is a one-off request, just for this terrorism case they already know the perpetrators of. But at a time when it already knew it was going to get an AWA order, Jim Comey was more frank. This is about car accidents. Car accidents, murder, kidnapping, and drugs (the last All Writs Act request was about drugs, in a case where they had enough evidence to get the guy to plead guilty anyway, if there are any doubts they would demand an AWA going forward).

Car accidents.

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.

14 replies
  1. Peterr says:

    Goodness.
    .
    clutches pearls with left hand
    .
    How ever did cops and prosecutors and sheriffs and detectives make murder cases, car accident cases, kidnapping cases, and drug cases in the past, before they had an AWA order to help them out?
    .
    How ever did we stay safe from those murderers and car wreckers and kidnappers and drug dealers?
    .
    right hand flies to forehead, palm out
    .
    swoons, falls gently to the fainting couch

  2. orionATL says:

    repeated coment from rayne post of 2-20-16

    [… orionATL on February 21, 2016 at 1:03 pm In reply to orionATL

    i keep wondering why we face this incessant push to spy on us in any possible way (children’s toys?) by federal police.

    it’s clearly not about preventing terrorist attacks or [interdicting] drug supply by spying; despite the gov p. r., these just doesn’t ever seem to be effective.

    i think it may have to do with maintaining police control over 320 million people. by “police control” i am not speaking at the moment of malevolent gov activity, just, literally, standard policing.

    this may be similar to other standard gov activities. imagine a state div of motor vehicles or the social security administration without extensive computer networks and data on individual citizens…]

    the “car accident” comment serves to enforce :) my suspicion.

    the spying capability available to local, state, and federal (fbi, dea, atf) police now includes license plate readers, cell phone readers (stingray), readily available appeals to electronic communication providers like apple for metadata, and of course, the patently unconstitutional nsa spying via the offshore end of a telecommunications cable network. all of which were used, ex post, for an open-and-shut mass-murder case in san bernardino.

    additionally, comey has made a point of a strong political appeal to local police around the nation, e. g., with his support for the local-police-union counterattack on severe public criticism of police brutality and extrajudicial executions – the bogus “ferguson effect”. comey continued this claptrap until (i think) the white house intervened to shut him up.

    • orionATL says:

      oops, forgot:

      “the spying capability of local, state, and federal… police”

      of course, that includes the fbi’s own domestic spying program which i take to be 1) vast and 2) inextricably co-mingled with the nsa’s spying capabilities (which are supposedly interdicted by law from operating within the u. s. on u. s. citizens).

  3. Bardi says:

    Thank you for taking this on. My emotional response to comey’s article rendered any response from me quite incoherent. His post seems to treat Americans as idiots, not uncommon when there is no logical argument to be made. Americans should be insulted.

    You are correct, this has nothing to do with terrorism, though comey invokes the “terrorist” attack in San Bernardino.

    I wish we could relegate Comey to the real Speaker’s Corner, where even drunks are allowed to speak.

    • martin says:

      quote”His post seems to treat Americans as idiots, not uncommon when there is no logical argument to be made. Americans should be insulted.”unquote

      His post is aimed at the idiots in Congress cause he knows what they are. He doesn’t give a damn if regular Murikan’s are insulted or not. After all..he’s Gman #uno.

  4. martin says:

    quote:”Even before he served Apple here, Comey made it clear this was about law enforcement, not terrorism cases, his cynical invocation of the San Bernardino victims notwithstanding.”unquote

    Cynical or not, looks like the DOJ was already prepared to squeeze public opinion by”representing” the victims families, even before the judges order became known. This doesn’t fare well for Apple.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-apple-encryption-victims-exclusive-idUSKCN0VV00B

    Victims Families: How dare you keep us from knowing what’s on that iPhone. It might have stopped the terrerhists!… er…wait.(turns to DOJ attorney and whispers..umm why are we here? Oh. nevermind)”

  5. wayoutwest says:

    I may just be paranoid but this ‘conflict’ seems a bit too staged and the Rotten Apple’s latest compromise solution will lead many of the rubes to believe their privacy is being protected by the MOTU’s. This proposed government/industry commission will certainly protect the reputation of the tech giants and enable the security state but anyone who carries these ultimate personal surveillance devices will remain subjects to be scrutinized for profit and control.

  6. orionATL says:

    comme ts about the federal government’s effort to force apple corp. to unlock a dead business cell phone of the san bernardino murder keep referring to the conflict as “apple vs the fbi”.

    i have had reservations about focusing soly on the fbi because the tactics used seem more political and legal than strictly law enforcement oriented.

    this quote from the guardian seems to confirm what i suspected, it is not the fbi that is primarily behind the effort to expose apple encryption, it is the department of justice. furthermore, the suggestion is that this was a carefully constructed and orchestrated legal attack:

    [… Federal prosecutors asked an attorney for victims of the San Bernardino terrorist attack to aid their case two days before they asked a judge to order Apple to unlock an iPhone used by one of the shooters, spurring a massive privacy battle, the Guardian has learned…

    Stephen Larson, the lawyer for the victims, told the Guardian the office of the US attorney for the central district of California contacted him on 14 February with a request to file a brief asking Apple to aid in unlocking the phone.

    On 16 February, the federal attorney, Eileen Decker, requested a federal magistrate, judge Sheri Pym, issue a warrant for the unlocked iPhone 5C. Pym provided it that day.

    The involvement of representatives for the victims of the December assault shows the amount of preparation US authorities devoted to what all sides see as a landmark case on the boundaries between digital privacy and national security. Informal attempts to get Apple to unlock the phone for the FBI and San Bernardino County broke down before the warrant was issued…]

    http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/feb/22/san-bernardino-shooting-apple-fbi-encryption-unlocked-iphone-victims-lawyer

  7. Evangelista says:

    Wherever references to the San Bernardino Shooting “Victims’ Families” are met we need to keep in mind that the families of the alleged shooters are among those victims’ families, too.

    The law enforcement case is very weak, has been from before the shooting of the alleged shooters. The law enforcement ‘industry’s records in cases where they rush to judgment and shoot first, on their ‘hunches’, preliminary information, received allegations, etc. etc., where available for inspections, show a high ‘error’ rate; a lot of people accused, assaulted, maimed, wounded, killed, who were innocent, or not gulty of capital crime.

    The FBI’s ‘necessity’ in the San Bernardino Shooting case, at this point, is not to find out what happened, but to determine how to defend Law enforcement acitons precipitately taken. The difficulty the FBI faces, which is the element that has the FBI worried, is that there are, or may be, existing ‘other-ends’ for whatever might be found on the Farouk phone, which may be hovering, being held by someone waiting for the FBI to assert its ‘definitive case’, which the hovering information might flatly debunk. None of the victims’ families are going to be served by FBI lies and a fabricated Hollywood-scenario explanation. All of America could be served by an exposition of conspiracy by law enforcement to con the nation with a fabricated “Crises conditions” “narrative” designed to justify Totalitarian Law Enforcement for Total Security.

  8. pdaly says:

    Car accidents.
    .
    Hmm.
    .
    Apple is rumored to be working on driverless cars.
    If the government were to be encrypted out of that development what would happen to the ease and fun of scooping up third party data?

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