The FBI might not be anti-Trump (and even assisted him in win the election), but they’re certainly anti-Apple. At least, a two members are. That’s because, while the FBI can be trusted to conduct a thorough and unbiased investigation, they certainly can’t be trusted to defend civil rights. The FBI has tunnel vision in one particular category: catching people who have broken the law. The FBI vs Apple debacle proved the organization is more than willing to violate human rights and decimate mobile security for everyone, worldwide, simply to gain easier access to our devices. They were willing to force people to do work they didn’t want to do and dismantle the mobile security that protects people worldwide from thieves, authoritarian governments, and spies. The NSA stood against their actions due to the risk of compromising American intelligence officials worldwide.
Fortunately, Apple stood up to the FBI, and they won.
To read more about the FBI vs Apple debacle, click here.
Conversations between Peter Strzok, FBI Counterintelligence, and Lisa Page, an FBI lawyer, show there existed some animosity towards Apple among a few members of the FBI. Though it would be absolutely idiotic to take the opinions of two people and pain the entire organization in a certain light (hear that, Republicans?), the fact that the FBI fought Apple on this matter, and lost suggests that the opinions of these two people may be more far-reaching. In fact, they suggest the director and deputy director of the FBI hate Apple’s iPhones, despite using them.
What else did they talk about? Well, among other things, they suggested that Tim Cook should fall off the face of the earth.
Strzok and Page had a number of text message conversations about Tim Cook around the time Apple was fighting back against the FBI’s attempts to force Apple to create a backdoor through iOS security. Each time they criticized him for defending Apple and Apple users’ rights. The FBI employees even made an egregious claim that Tim Cook was a hypocrite, and actually was spying on users. They had no proof of this, it was an “off the cuff” statement. Strzok and Page talked about a feature that could be turned off, but could have been talking about anything from Find my iPhone to Location Services, or usage tracking reports, which contain anonymous information on crashes so Apple can improve iOS. Either way, it’s clear neither really were aware of what their devices were doing.
The funniest exchange appeared the same day Tim Cook published an open letter on Apple’s website. The letter explained Apple’s stance, and why the believed customers needed their privacy and security. It made it clear that neither the iPhone, nor any other device, could be secure if the FBI got its way. Part of their conversation is below.
Strzok: “NYTimes breaking. You saw the byline right?”
Page: “It helps that the Director and Deputy really hate these phones too. And really love their personal iPhones.”
Strzok: “Now if Tim Cook would fall off the face of the earth.”
Now, make no mistake, the funny part isn’t the fact that an FBI counter intelligence officer and FBI lawyer are joking about their mutual hatred of an American citizen. No, the funny part is that the conversation cuts off there because they switched to iMessage for privacy. Apple’s iMessage contains the very security they were bemoaning, and their messages are only secure right now because Apple won their fight against the FBI. These two were too thick to realize they were only secure because of Apple. The irony is simply hilarious.
The FBI backed down from their fight with Apple, which is surprisingly unfortunate. Yes, it meant the courts didn’t give them them carte blanche to force Apple to develop software they didn’t want to make. And yes, it also meant cellphones across the globe were secure another day (because any security hole inevitably leaks and is exploited elsewhere). However, it didn’t set precedence. Because a court did not rule that the FBI’s attempts to force people to write software against their will were unconstitutional, the FBI is free to try to fight this again another day. Eventually, they might be handed a sympathetic case involving a phone that might actually have useful information on it, and when that day comes, a fearful populace and a conservative/authoritarian judge could give them that power. If that ever happens millions of people worldwide are going to be in a lot of danger.