FBI Director James Comey starts his defense of their effort to force Apple to help them break into the iPhone of San Bernardino terrorist and killer Syed Farook with a sentence that is that is extremely hard to take seriously: “The San Bernardino litigation isn’t about trying to set a precedent or send any kind of message.”
That’s from a Sunday contribution on the Lawfare blog, focusing on the same talking points we’ve been hearing from the feds since a judge last week ordered Apple to take some actions that would make it easier for the FBI to brute force the passcode into Farook’s phone. Comey insists that what the FBI is asking for is very narrow and is not about breaking encryption or creating a “master key” to force back doors into encryption.
There are also plenty of appeals to emotion to try to make people feel bad for resisting their efforts. The title of the post is “We Could Not Look the Survivors in the Eye if We Did Not Follow this Lead,” a sentiment repeated in the content of the short commentary
The problem with treating Comey’s claim credibly is that we all know full well that the White House, the executive branch, federal law enforcement, and intelligence are all united in a concerted effort to do pretty much the opposite of what Comey says: to find ways to break through encryption. Bloomberg got its hands on a memo from a strategy meeting from last Thanksgiving that showed that what Comey is doing here is exactly the White House’s plan: