In all of the excitement of this past weekend’s controversy over a possible radical authoritarian gaining control of the White House, largely ignored was a radical authoritarian currently in the White House advising us that we have no right to privacy. From The Register’s Chris Williams (NSFW-ish language warning):
SXSW Amid the row between Apple and the FBI over the unlocking of a mass murderer’s iPhone, President Barack Obama has told the tech world to suck it up and do what the Feds want.
Speaking today at hipster-circle-jerk SXSW in Austin, Texas, the United States’ Commander in Chief said phones and computers cannot be unbreakable “black boxes,” and that an “absolutist” view on encryption won’t fly with the laws and courts of the land.
Of course, the President and his staff, his military, his government agencies and his intelligence services all rely on tough and non-compromised encryption – but that’s not for you. You’re too busy “fetishizing” your smartphone, the leader of the free world said.
Among the president’s arguments he brought up what is a very good point:
“If there is probable cause to think that you have abducted a child, or that you are engaging in a terrorist plot, or you are guilty of some serious crime, law enforcement can appear at your doorstep and say ‘I have a warrant’ and go into your bedroom to rifle through your underwear and see if there’s any evidence of wrongdoing.
“The question we now have to ask is if technologically it is possible to make an impenetrable device or system where the encryption is so strong that there’s no key or no door at all. How do we apprehend the child pornographer? How do we solve or disrupt a terrorist plot?”
Fair enough. I think that the balance between privacy and security is one that any healthy society should have. And if the president is sincere about opening up information to the authorities, then my response to him is, “You first.”
As far as I know, the IRS doesn’t possess information that could compromise national security, so how about making public their records, and prosecuting its member who illegally destroyed records that were government property? And shall we get started on a former high ranking diplomat who compromised national security by exposing sensitive information to hackers? I’d like to think he has the authority to bring these records public if he had any real desire to do so, not to mention prosecuting her.
Contrary to what the Radical Left may believe, we Conservatives would like nothing more than to have the same level of blind faith in government as our Leftist brethren. Unfortunately, facts and reality don’t allow us to share that belief. Humans are, and always be, imperfect creatures and will do bad things. While we will never love government in the same way that lefties do, we’d have a much easier time trusting it if the government actually prosecuted those who abuse us with their power. Or as I said recently Mr. President, “Give a damn.”
You don’t like American citizens having guns? Great! How about prosecuting the former Attorney General who put assault weapons into the hands of the drug lords who murdered one of your employees. Or how about when politically driven government thugs broke down doors in the middle of the night to terrorize families and their children? Where is the Department of Justice to investigate? Why is nobody on a very public trial and being punished for such an egregious offense? Or how about in the days leading up to your presidency when a local official leaked personal information of a private citizen who dared to question a politician? Instead of kicking her into another government job maybe the DOJ should have been prosecuting her? And don’t get me started on that high-ranking former diplomat who compromised national security…
Even if we see the government actively prosecute its officials who knowingly abuse their power, the debate over privacy will still never be a simple one. It’s just that if the government wants us to trust them, it would help if we could have a degree of trust in them not to abuse our personal information, and to show it is willing and able to punish its agents who do. And as we all know, the president “has a phone and a pen.” Using it on behalf of the American people would be a good start.
As I was wrapping up this post I read a piece from the @Vodkapundit that gave one other great point that I missed on my first reading of this story. Check out Obama: Encryption is too Good for You:
Technology has the power to take things which only the rich used to be able to get, and make them available to almost anyone. Obama bemoans that encryption is like “everyone is walking around with a Swiss bank account in your pocket.” Well, the rich will always enjoy the safety and security of Swiss bank accounts, but disc-level encryption — the very thing Obama wants to take away — makes that safety and security available to anyone willing to plunk down the money for a modern smartphone.
See, Obama isn’t wrong with the Swiss bank account analogy. He just doesn’t think you, the little people, should have what the rich have always enjoyed.
Cross posted at Brother Bob’s Blog