Words of Advice:

"If Something Seems To Be Too Good To Be True, It's Best To Shoot It, Just In Case." -- Fiona Glenanne

"Flying the Airplane is More Important than Radioing Your Plight to a Person on the Ground
Who is Incapable of Understanding or Doing Anything About It." -- Unknown

“Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level
and then beat you with experience.” -- Mark Twain

"Stay Strapped or Get Clapped." -- probably not Mr. Rogers

"Let’s eat all of these people!” — Venom

"Eck!" -- George the Cat

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Most Significant Threat to American Freedoms and Liberties

The real threats to our freedoms and liberties, at least since 1815, have never come from a foreign power. They have always been internal threats from the very people charged with defending our security.

No clearer example of that is the FBI's trying to force Apple to come up with software to defeat its encryption protocols.

No one side of the spectrum is simon-pure on this. One would not expect Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Pete King (R-Eire) to agree on anything, but when it comes to erasing American's rights under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, they line up perfectly. It's always "give up a little more freedom, a little more privacy and we'll keep you safe" with them and with the vast majority of law enforcement.

We're at the point, now, where only a copper who either deeply respects the Constitution or is completely addlepated can't come up with a reason to crash through your front door, right this instant. "I heard a suspicious noise", "I smelled something bad"-- impossible to disprove.

Here, the Feebies want Apple to invent software to unlock iPhones. That software doesn't exist. It's probably not cheap to do that. You can bet the farm that the Feebies aren't going to pay Apple for their services. (Can you say "unfunded mandates"?)

What precedent exists for the Stasi FBI to demand that somebody invent something? Hell, why don't they make Bell invent the "whisper mode" from Airwolf?

Worse, once the Feebies have the software, what's to prevent them from using it whenever the hell they want to, warrants be damned?

Oh, but they have a need for it, the FBI sez. That's what they always say. Bullshit. The terrorists are long dead. If the FBI thinks that the dead terrorists were in contact with anyone else when they were plotting, why don't they ask the NSA? Or maybe the NSA's vacuuming up of all electronic communications hasn't proved useful at all? Maybe the NSA's monitoring has been a colossal waste of our tax dollars?

Well, screw the FBI, even though Apple probably is one of the vilest companies on the planet. When it comes to having a condescending attitude towards their customers, Apple is among the worst offenders. But that doesn't alter the point that Apple is right on this.

The fun part would be this: Say the FBI gets what they want. So it goes to the Dilbert-Wally team at Apple. They'll diligently work on the problem for six years, then come back and say "we can't do it". How can the FBI prove that they are lying?


CenterPuke88 said...

It strikes me that any form of non-volatile memory should be able to be read, in some form or other, via some means other than normal access. Now, they may have to remove the chips from the board and do various other gymnastics, but I'd be pretty surprised if the FBI didn't already have a way to do such a thing.

Which brings us to why would they be demanding this key, if they could do it a different way? I'm not paranoid, but this smells...it smells like they want an easier key and this is the Trojan Horse they selected.

jsrtheta said...

Here is the problem with your post: The person whose phone they want to open is dead. Accordingly, the FBI is not violating his Fourth Amendment rights. The amendment simply doesn't apply in this case.

Also, I have not seen anything indicating that the FBI won't pay for this, or that they will. Right now, you are assuming something that is not at all certain. (To be fair, you sort of admit you don't know, but why speculate in the first place?)

Marc said...

Well, the FBI requested the San Bernardino folks to reset the iCloud password to get into it hours after the attack. That is what screwed up getting access to stuff on the phone. Plus, too, the FBI already had emails (provided by the users ISP), so unless there is a phone number they can't get from the phone carrier (unlikely), the only stuff which they might want would be pictures or GPS information. This is more the Feds wanting to force this issue into the court of public opinion. Apple has make user privacy one of its standards, so bending over (like AT&T and others have...) for the Feds ain't gonna happen without significant change at Apple. Not gonna happen.

jsrtheta said...

You may be right. I am not tech-savvy enough to evaluate what you say.

But I think you are wrong about how this should play out. Very generally, courts do not delve into the unspoken motivations of a party seeking relief. If, say, the police are watching you, just waiting for you to screw up, and they see you, say, fail to signal your turn, the court is not going to say, well the police only saw that because they were hounding you. Most of the time, the court is going to say "We don't care about the motivation. The issue is whether you signaled or not. And you admit you didn't. End of analysis." This is, of course, a major oversimplification, but it is really pretty close to the truth. Put another way in the same fact set, suppose the police say we only stopped him because we think he's a drug dealer. But it turns out that, indeed, you still didn't signal. Most courts will say that even if the police didn't state a valid reason for the stop, nonetheless one existed. So no harm, no foul.

Comrade Misfit said...

I'm thinking it's safe to assume that the FBI wants all of this work done for free.

Second point: That phone still belongs to somebody. Somebody is the heir of the SB Asswipes.

jsrtheta said...

Assume all you want. That doesn't make it so. (Nor does it make it no so. It just means that right now, we don't have that information. I believe it's better to argue based on known facts, and not speculation.)

And, I hate to break it to you, but no one inherits someone else's Fourth Amendment claims. Doesn't work that way. Nor does it work that if the police unlawfully search your home, that I, as your neighbor, get to challenge that in court. Standing, like jurisdiction, is always a threshold question for any court. And as your neighbor, I don't have standing.

sglover said...

Jeff Ryan said:

"Here is the problem with your post: The person whose phone they want to open is dead. Accordingly, the FBI is not violating his Fourth Amendment rights. The amendment simply doesn't apply in this case."

The Electronic Frontier Foundation points out that the Feds can already find out who the dead guys were communicating with. The EFF argues that the FBI et al is only tangentially interested in investigating this crime. What they're really after is the opportunity to establish a huge precedent for yet more aurveillance.

Leave it to the FBI to put an outfit like Apple on the right side of things....

Comrade Misfit said...

And, I hate to break it to you, but no one inherits someone else's Fourth Amendment claims. Doesn't work that way. Nor does it work that if the police unlawfully search your home, that I, as your neighbor, get to challenge that in court.

But if I were dead and I had left my home to you, you certainly would have the standing to contest a search.

jsrtheta said...

No I wouldn't if the object of the search was proof of YOUR criminal activity. If they were looking for evidence of MY criminal activity, they would have to justify that.

But if I am the victim of an unlawful search, and I die, my heirs do not get to object in my name.

This is really settled law.

jsrtheta said...

And the EFF can point out whatever it likes. The government doesn't have to agree, or choose which method of evidence-gathering it decides to employ, as a general rule.

What strikes me about what I've read online is that there seems to be some belief that there is some talismanic power saying that the government cannot investigate crime if it involves intrusion into computers, cell phones, and the like. Like there is some trump card that means the government cannot act.

Sorry. That's not the law, and it has never been the law. Nor should it be. No court is going to say, "Sorry, FBI. You may be right that the suspect is planning a nuclear attack. But since it's a smart phone, well, you know, that's sacred!" Hasn't happened, ain't gonna happen. This is magical thinking.

Eck! said...

from a pure technical stance one I can take.

The Iphone like the Androids are mostly SOC, system on a chip.
Most will shrung and say so what. It means the Memory, Firmware,
and much of the system is in one chunk of silicon. So getting at
the data in it is usually doable using JTAG.. the problem is that
with the last versions of the iphone the data was encrypted
and part of the needed key the user provides. The encryption
is done on the fly to that phone at install where two very large
random numbers are applied using a known piece of math. We know
how its encrypted but the primes used and the user key are unknown.
Without that you can have the contents but not in a usable form.

Add to that the Iphone uses a seperate bit of hardware for the
"home button" and subbing that out or breaking it gets you
error 53 lockout.

FYI: the Iphone/Ipad has the key so anything it stored on the "cloud"
is encrypted to that key which no one has.

Why did Apple make it as best I can tell nearly one way encryption?

A show of hands:

How many have confidential or secure email (doctors and others)?
How many use it for do their daily banking (account number, pin)?
How many use it for purchases as either electronic credit card or to buy from
How many have personal data stored like SSN, PINs, Passwords, Home control...?

Its bad enough most people post all that to bookofface and other social media
without any though of infosec. At least a device maker took it to provide
security that fails to secure rather than giving it all away. We need that
as there are those attempting to simply take it.


Comrade Misfit said...

Really? The cops can come and search my home and I don't have standing to object to the search if I'm not the target of the search?

I'd like to see some cases that say that.

jsrtheta said...

Not exactly what you said. Certainly, if it's my home that's being searched, especially for evidence against me, then of course I can object. (But if they have a warrant, then the objection must wait until court, and after the search.)

Your example seemed to imply you could object based on your ancestor's standing. And that you couldn't do.

Look, Farook is dead. No heir has the standing to object to the search of Farook's phone. No heir took the phone, made it theirs, and started using it. So, no standing.

No one can vicariously claim standing once Farook is dead, unless they can demonstrate their own standing. And there is no such person. Word puzzles sure are a thrill, but you are going for a gotcha in a totally irrelevant example.

Put more clearly, if the police collect your phone as the result of a crime you committed, and during which you died, your daughter can't claim standing to object to a search, unless she used the phone herself. She can't claim standing simply as your heir.

Marc said...

Farook didn't own the phone. The San Bernardino folks who reset the iCloud password owned the phone. So the data is toast at this point - unless Apple is forced to create an encryption breaking replacement operating system for the phone. As I said above, the ISP has handed over the email, and the phone carrier has handed over the phone records. The only information that the FBI could possibly be interested in are Photos and GPS data. Neither of which would help them do anything - this is the Feds attempt to get a backdoor created for every iPhone, without paying for it - public image of Apple would be taken down further if they complied, which is an intangible part of the brand, and the stock market would surely hand out a financial opinion. This is a case where the Feds want to create a precedent, nothing more.

jsrtheta said...

I realize that it isn't your point, but to clarify, Farook would likely have legal standing because he would have a reasonable expectation of privacy in it that the law would recognize.

Again, not your point. Just wanted to nip something in the bud.

But, I wonder why you think photos and GPS data wouldn't be helpful?

CenterPuke88 said...

Er, Jeff, what about the simple fact that the owner of the phone (San Bernardino County) complied with an FBI request, and that request effectively locked the FBI out? The FBI had the opportunity to get their hands on the phone unmolested, and blew it. Consider your house example, the house is locked. The FBI believes a crime was committed by a resident, not the owner, of the house. The FBI is entitled to search the portion of the house (with appropriate warrants) used by the resident, and may ask the owner to assist. The owner complied with the FBI's direction to work the lock on the door, and it simply rendered the lock inoperable. Now the FBI is demanding that the lock manufacturer create a special tool that can unlock all of it's locks in the world, so that they may enter the house. The creation of said tool will render the manufacturers locks unsalable and destroy the company's business. The FBI does not have that right. The FBI has the right to damage the property to enter, but must compensate the owner for said damage because it was proximately caused by the FBI's erroneous directions.

jsrtheta said...

Wow. Not quite sure what to say about that. Though I sympathize, because not all of my analogies are elegant either.

Are you talking about whether the FBI should pay Apple? I am not aware that they are refusing to do so.

Otherwise, this isn't a game here. If the FBI screwed up the phone, it's not like they bought a phone, broke it, and now want their money back. The issue is access to evidence. No court is going to say (nor should they) "Well, you had your chance to find the evidence that might lead to terrorist activity. But then you had to go and screw up the phone. No evidence for you!" At least, that seems what you might be suggesting, but, really, I can't follow your line of reasoning here.

CenterPuke88 said...

Off topic, but shirt dot woot dot com is running "St. Catty' Day" shirts today, FYI.

Comrade Misfit said...

Turns out that the phone was furnished by his employer. Fools had bought remote management software for their employees' phones but didn't install it.

This is not like bringing in a locksmith for a one-ff job The FBI is asking that Apple be forced to circumvent encryption and there is no guarantee that the FBI won't take the product and use it on anyone else's phone. There is no guarantee that the FBI won't give it to the DEA or to the DHS for use by all of their "agencies". The government will give it to the Brits, the Brits'll give it to someone else.

And then the precedent is set: The government can force those who make encryption to add in back-doors.

The FBI says they need to know who the terrorists talked to They can get that without having to touch the phone.

No, this is a textbook example of "never let a crisis go to waste." The FBI wants to break encryption. They always have. They've lost every time they took the fight to Congress. So now they're trying another way.

The FBI is evil.

Comrade Misfit said...

What BadTux sad.

CenterPuke88 said...

Jeff, your analogies aside, I simply explained that you are demanding that a business destroy itself by complying with a court order. I think the laws regarding takings will solve the issue nicely, and the FBI can go fuck itself. Meanwhile, go drop a copy of your house key with the local FBI office, you are OK with that, right?

Chris Mallory said...

Jeff Ryan, just because you are dead does not mean the government has free reign to search your papers.

The FBI should be disbanded, there is no authorization for the agency in the US Constitution and the US Constitution does not give the Federal government any general police powers. This crime took place in California and should be a matter for the city and or state, not the Federal government.

Anonymous said...

They likely have the data already.

This is just the excuse to gain more and easier access..

Oblio said...

I will keep saying this until I'm even stupider than I already am:

Apple already has the 'key' to unlock any iphone device they've ever produced, but it's a tightly-held secret they are unwilling to cough-up unless threatened with active intervention by the Gummint. Think about it.'. the iphone has software written into it that can do just about anything, anywhere, anytime, for anybody. Do we really think they would have stopped there and not continued to write code to unlock their own devices? PUH-LEEEZE!!!! No Chiphead worth her salt would ever stop part-ways.

Apple can't admit to already having this access because it would be admitting to their device users all over the world their (not-so-smart) devices can already be compromised, which means they've been lying to consumers about the device security all along. The Feds already know about the key and are pressuring Apple to cough it up without sending Apple's sales into a tailspin. That cover will only last for so long before the Feds muscle-up.

Apple admitting to this security shade would be a bigger corporate lying scandal than Takata Airbags and VW diesel engines combined. Of course, I could be 100% wrong, but... I dinna think so!!!!

The New York Crank said...

Oi, my head is spinning. Stop already with the legal analogies, back doors, front doors, and law school Moot Court arguments. I have a better solution.

We have been told, over and over again, by entities ranging from the CIA to Donald Trump, that when American lives are in the balance, "enhanced interrogation" works and definitely saves lives.

So, since even the NSA, which listens in on all of us, doesn't know what was said or done on the I-phone, the FBI should take the phone down to Guantanamo Bay. It should strip the phone of its case, hang it from a ceiling in a freezing cold room, and leave it hanging there for 40 hours while playing loud heavy metal music at maximum decibels. After that, the phone should be waterboarded.

That is guaranteed to provide as much completely accurate and actionable information as other waterboarding at Guantanamo, not to mention the vast NSA listening operation.

And the damned telephone will deserve it.

Yours very crankily,
The New York Crank