Encryption

Rep. Thomas Massie: I Stand with Apple in Protecting Encryption

Americans have the right to privacy and security of their digital data.

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Thomas Massie
Rep. Thomas Massie

Occasionally politicians slip up and reveal their true intentions. In D.C., this is called "committing candor." While indirectly discussing his administration's effort in the courts to force Apple to develop a software key to unlock iPhones, President Barack Obama recently admitted this battle is not just about a single terrorist's iPhone in San Bernardino, California.

On March 11 at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, Obama said, "What mechanisms do we have available to even do simple things like tax enforcement? Because if, in fact, you can't crack that at all, government can't get in, then everybody's walking around with a Swiss bank account in their pocket. So there has to be some concession to the need to be able get into that information somehow."

This comes from an administration that defines "tax enforcement" as asking conservative-leaning non-profit organizations whether any of their members ever plan to run for office, demanding transcripts of all their speeches, and even asking questions about the content of their prayers.

Thanks to the president's own words, we know the current battle over unbreakable encryption (and the privacy it affords) is not about a single terrorist's iPhone.

But what about national security? Would it be in the best interests of national security to outlaw unbreakable encryption in the United States? Not so, says four-star General Michael Hayden, the former director of the CIA and NSA: "Even when you're just looking at this through a security lens, that's actually not the best resolution for American security. Put another way, America is more secure—America is more safe—with unbreakable end-to-end encryption."

As Craig Federighi, Apple's head of software engineering writes, "Once created, this software—which law enforcement has conceded it wants to apply to many iPhones—would become a weakness that hackers and criminals could use to wreak havoc on the privacy and personal safety of us all."

As an MIT-trained electrical engineer, I understand the unique technical aspects of this case, and Apple's specific arguments. Apple is correct when it asserts that compliance with this court order would force it to compromise its existing products. Compliance with the order would also compromise the privacy and security of all iPhone customers. 

This is why I, along with Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D, Calif.) and Rep. Rush Holt (D, N.J.), drafted an amendment in 2014 to block government agencies from coercing individuals and organizations to build encryption backdoors. Twice I offered this amendment to the annual Department of Defense Appropriations bill, and twice it passed the United States House of Representatives by overwhelming margins. Both times, the appropriation bills were discarded in favor of an omnibus spending bill, but the roll call votes demonstrate solid support for the Fourth Amendment in Congress. 

Stymied by our bipartisan coalition in Congress to protect the Fourth Amendment, the administration now hopes to circumvent the legislative process and instead use the courts to weaken encryption. But Americans have always cherished privacy and do not want their government spying on them. 

"If privacy is outlawed, only outlaws will have privacy," says encryption expert Philip Zimmerman. At stake in the ongoing court battle between Apple and the FBI is whether innocent Americans continue to have privacy. If Apple loses this landmark case, only outlaws, our government, and foreigners can have privacy and security. I will continue to support Apple and oppose the government's ongoing war on your privacy and security.

NEXT: How About a Non-Lawyer, Non-Ivy Leaguer, on the Supreme Court?: Instapundit

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  1. Do all “libertarian Republicans” have that Hair Club for Men look?

    1. I assume they forgot to remove their Scotch hat until right before the photo.

    2. The exact technical term is “libertarian impersonator.” This goes for Republican, Anarchist, Communist–whatever cress-dressing ideologue who supports and endorses the initiation of force and fraud, but wants you tricked into believing that’s still libertarian.

      1. That’s deep, if you really read it! I am watching the special in the “blue zones” on CNN. It seems that the stress free attitude, leaving others alone, is part of art of longevity! Then again, there is stress in trying to avoid the other’s that would stress us, that want nothing other than to be eft alone!

    3. Chinny Chin Chin -Do all clueless individuals like you have nothing better to do then to post infantile rot?

  2. One might hope that an alternate type of politician would include alt-text. One would hope in vain.

  3. As Craig Federighi, Apple’s head of software engineering writes, “Once created, this software?which law enforcement has conceded it wants to apply to many iPhones?would become a weakness that hackers and criminals could use to wreak havoc on the privacy and personal safety of us all.”

    But then the government could “rescue” us from the havoc. Most politicians and government “law enforcement” agencies would see that as a plus, not a minus.

  4. It’s not just about “phones” either when your phone is a hand-held computer that has all your electronic communications on it. The Feds don’t just want to know who you’ve been calling on your phone, they want to know who you’ve been texting, who you’ve got in your contacts list, what websites you’ve been browsing and what you’ve been googling, where you’ve been traveling and where you last bought gas, what your bank balance is and when you last made a credit card payment – a thousand details of your life they can get from you if you use that phone in all the ways it’s capable of being used.

    1. And Obama (and every remaining presidential candidate) openly says that all of this belongs to the government.

    2. Well, there goes privacy. Time to throw out the phones.

  5. What mechanisms do we have available to even do simple things like tax enforcement? Because if, in fact, you can’t crack that at all, government can’t get in, then everybody’s walking around with a Swiss bank account in their pocket. So there has to be some concession to the need to be able get into that information somehow.

    OK, I may’ve misjudged the power of encryption technology or it’s religious effects anyway. Apparently, if we feed it enough pure reverence, it can stymie even the most earnest statists.

    So, someone who believes cryptography will ultimately fail in bringing about libertopia but that the belief in cryptography is a good thing for libertarianism and is therefor observant would a crypto-crypto-libertarian, right?

  6. DOJ: “Your product is too good. You must redesign it and make it worse.”

  7. Every time you say “libertarian Republican”, a kitten dies.

    1. If dead cats are the price of free speech…

      At least it’s a bit of an oxy-moron that reflects reality and not a completely inaccurate fabrication like ‘libertarian Democrat’ or ‘The Libertarian Case For Bernie Sanders’.

  8. Could this guy move to CA? I’d love to actually cast a vote *for* someone.

    1. No, we need as much help here in KY as possible.

    2. Vote for a platform, not a politician, and happiness will be yours.

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  11. Real candor would have sounded like this:

    On March 11 at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, Obama said, “What mechanisms do we have available to even do simple things like tax theft enforcement? Because if, in fact, you can’t crack that at all, government the moral equivalent of the mafia, but with better PR can’t get in, then everybody’s walking around with a Swiss bank account in their pocket. So there has to be some concession to the need to be able get into that information somehow.”

    1. Why not try somehow earning money instead of robbing it?

  12. Thomas Massie is on the Reason Staff?

  13. Everyone wants to have mass surveillance, poking it’s schlong in our pants.
    Our good ole friend George did it to stop terrorists!!!
    And…who cares about our sermons?
    I’m sure the government needs the gospel anyway…
    Because Obama’s a Muslim!
    And the Clinton’s where atheists!
    Right!?

  14. Neil Stephenson warned of this in Cryptonomicon. The income tax imported into the Constitution by William Jennings Bryan and other socialist prohibitionists is gonna haveta go. Otherwise it’s only a matter of time before the looters again drag the rest of the world into Soviet style communo-fascist socialism.

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  16. Neither the FBI nor the Federal “Just Us” Department have any constitutional authority to compel (FORCE) Apple or anyone else to create a currently non-existent backdoor program to satisfy their whim’s, schemes and agenda’s.

  17. The FBI had an agent that changed the existing pass code in the phone before consulting with Apple. In doing so the FBI agent caused and created a complete information gathering lockout on the San Bernardino terrorist’s phone. If the FBI agent had not changed the pass code then Apple would have been able to help them gather the encrypted information without the want or need of creating a deleterious backdoor program. Oops!
    Apple’s encryption program is meant to safeguard all its customers from spammers, unlawful spying from nefarious government bureaucracies such as the infamous NSA and hackers. Apple has the right and the constitutional protections to justly and justifiably do so within and under the U.S. Constitution’s 4th Amendment.

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