Encrypted for Their Security
By Fred Reed
October 04, 2014 "ICH"
read that Apple and Google have begun encrypting
the data of customers so that nobody, including
Apple and Google, have plaintext access to it.
This of course means “so that the government
will not have access to it.” The FBI is terribly
upset about this, the first serious resistance
against onrushing Orwellianism. God bless Apple
and Google. But will they be able to stand up to
a curious situation indeed. The government has
become our enemy, out of control, and we have
to depend on computer companies for any safety
we may have.
spies on us illegally and in detail, recording
telephone conversations, reading email,
recording our financial transactions, on and on.
TSA makes air travel a nightmare, forcing us to
hop about barefoot and confiscating toothpaste.
The police kick in our doors at night on
no-knock raids and shoot our dogs. In bus
stations we are subject to search without
probable cause. The feds track us through our
cell phones. Laws make it a crime to photograph
the police, an out-and-out totalitarian step:
Cockroaches do not like light. The feds give
police forces across the country weaponry normal
to militaries. Whatever the intention, it is the
hardware of control of dissent. Think Tian An
Men Square in China.
have no recourse. If you resist, you go to jail,
maybe not for long, not yet anyway, but jail is
jail. Object to TSA and you miss your flight.
They know it and use it. The courts do nothing
about this. They too are feds.
say, “If you are not doing anything wrong, you
have nothing to fear.” This might be true, or
partly true, or sometimes true, or occasionally
plausible, if government were benevolent. It
feds—whatever the intention of individuals—are
setting up the machinery of a totalitarianism
beyond anything yet known on the earth. It falls
rapidly into place. You can argue, if you are
optimistic enough to make Pollyanna look like a
Schopenhaurian gloom-monger, that they would
never use such powers. They already do. The only
question is how far they will push. What cannot
be argued is that they have the powers
means that if they decide in a few years, or
tomorrow, to crack down on “hate speech,” and
then on speech that they say they think might
suggest terroristic links, and then on
anti-American speech as defined by them (does
anyone remember HUAC?), they will have the
mere knowledge that one is watched, or may be
being watches, is enough to subvert political
freedom. Already journalists have to assume that
their communications are intercepted, and
sources, assuming the same thing, stop being
in the cross-hairs and what happens in the next
very few years will determine in what direction
we go. And when we have to depend on commercial
companies like Apple and Google to protect us
from our government, things are bad.
wants a “back door” in the encryption used by
our telephones, so that it can spy on us—for our
own good, you see, for our own good. Uh-huh. Of
course if the government has a back door, others
can find it.
crucial question: Do we have more to fear from
largely imaginary terrorists, or from the FBI?
Your chances of being killed by terrorists are
essentially zero, even if you live in Washington
or New York, and far less if you live in Memphis
or Raleigh-Durham. (To express this we need the
concept of negative zero, which I hearwith offer
to the mathmatical community.) Your chances of
living in an electronically locked-down police
state are very high. This is far more dangerous
to what the United States was than even a
successful bombing of a mall.
goes through the minds of those who are doing
this to us? In my former guise as a police
reporter I knew a few FBI types. They were
pathologically normal, smelled of too much soap
and wholesomeness, resembled armed accountants
with the other-worldly assurance of
scientologists. They were deeply convinced that
they were the Angels Gabriel protecting us from
whatever, including ourselves—and they were as
intellectual as colonels, which is to say as
intellectual as fire plugs. In particular, they
did not think in terms of constitutional
liberties. Since their intentions were good,
they figured that nobody should interfere with
them. And they were on a power trip, as we used
at the policy level are another thing. Many are
intelligent, some extremely so. They understand
not just the laws, but law. Many have educations
of the first quality. Harvard was not always a
prep school for I-banking. They are familiar
with history, understand the philosophy of
constitutional government, and understand the
consequences of our current direction. They know
what they are doing. And keep doing it.
Partly because they are screened to be as they
are. Just as the military attracts highly
aggressive men, who then want a war in which to
use their training (would Tiger Woods practice
his golf swing for a lifetime without wanting to
be in a tournament?) politics attracts and
favors the unprincipled and manipulative. It is
a playground for psychopaths, for the charmingly
conscienceless, for the utterly self-concerned.
These now rule us.
obvious. Yet in the past there were sometimes
men who understood that, to maintain a
constitutional democracy, you have to pay the
price of allowing freedom. They, and the courts,
actually defended the right of people to say
things that the government and its client groups
did not like. They saw the danger of trying to
control every aspect of everyone’s life. Today?
Neither the courts, nor the Supreme Court, nor
the President, nor the Congress, nor the
military, nor the intelligence agencies shows
any sign of wanting to rein in the abuses. It’s
Apple and Google or nothing, and the government
will threaten them with everything short of
beheading. Maybe short of beheading.
expert, readable, and non-technical explanation
of just how secure your data aren't, read
The Art of Deception: Controlling the Human
Element of Security. For the best (so far as
I know) but fairly technical website on computer
Schneir on Security and subscribe, for free,
to his Crypto-Gram.
Biography - As He Tells It - Fred, a keyboard
mercenary with a disorganized past, has worked
on staff for Army Times, The Washingtonian,
Soldier of Fortune, Federal Computer Week, and
The Washington Times.