FBI iPhone Circle Jerk Theater

Substantial noise has been generated over the past several days concerning the fate of a colored plastic iPhone. The debate concerns whether Apple should provide agents of United States which would allow them to more effectively defeat iOS encryption through brute force. Given Apple's history of collaboration with this sort of agent it is perfectly reasonable to assume the assistance requested by the FBI from Apple has already been rendered (archived). So, why the loud public debate?

Loud polarized debates have tremendous social engineering value. Reality with its actual history is irrelevant to the social engineer. The social engineer instead values images and ideas. People with knowledge of the world are empowered to independently make judgements about their world based on real events and actual history in physical reality. This is undesirable for the social engineer and their fellow socialists who require soft, fungible, and disposable masses for their pliability. The polarized debate is supremely effective for cultivating this pliability by tempting persons to accept at least some premises of one or both sides of the debate with no necessary connection to reality.

Let us consider a number of probable untruths being promoted by this debate:

  • Apple is a champion of privacy against  governments when they have colluded with government in the past to develop surveillance programs like PRISM.
  • iPhone encryption is impervious to state level actors while seeded with 4 and 6 digit PINs when a substantial number of technically oriented commentators are conceding that arbitrary firmware measures to thwart brute forcing are the only defense and they could be circumvented with different firmware.
  • iPhone device encryption offers protection for communications though communications necessarily leave the phone, hit the wire, and exist in places other than that particular phone's memory.
  • The law constrains the actions of United States Government and its agents, when it practices disregard for the law as a standard course of action.
  • That court orders and declarations by fiat hold any actual power against strong, well implemented encryption.

There are other probable falsehoods presented with these separately and together in a variety of differing combinations. The point of priming and promoting this debate is exposing persons to these ideas so they might accept or repeat them, and the value judgements made by persons with respect to where they stand on these ideas is completely irrelevant to the social engineer's purposes. The most curious actual fact surrounding when this debate got loud is that it happened after the supreme court justice most hostile to unconstitutional search and seizures died not long before.

5 thoughts on “FBI iPhone Circle Jerk Theater

  1. Here is some analysis from Cato, by Julian Sanchez

    This Is the Real Reason Apple Is Fighting the FBI

    The first thing to understand about Apple’s latest fight with the FBI—over a court order to help unlock the deceased San Bernardino shooter’s phone—is that it has very little to do with the San Bernardino shooter’s phone.

    It’s not even, really, the latest round of the Crypto Wars—the long running debate about how law enforcement and intelligence agencies can adapt to the growing ubiquity of uncrackable encryption tools.

    It’s a fight over the future of high-tech surveillance, the trust infrastructure undergirding the global software ecosystem, and how far technology companies and software developers can be conscripted as unwilling suppliers of hacking tools for governments.

    Rather, it’s a fight over the future of high-tech surveillance, the trust infrastructure undergirding the global software ecosystem, and how far technology companies and software developers can be conscripted as unwilling suppliers of hacking tools for governments. It’s also the public face of a conflict that will undoubtedly be continued in secret—and is likely already well underway.



    It would be interesting to read what the probable ("probable" or "provable"?) falsehoods are regarding this. One thing is for sure, the general direction of travel is correct, toward the idea of everything being encrypted. That systems may not work well now is to be expected along this path.

    • Apple handed over the keys to the iCloud. The notion that they are fighting over some inviolate corner of the iKingdom is nothing but a distraction from that. Apple surrendered to surveillance already. People are free to iJerk it to whatever they want, but Apple already signed the papers and it it too late for them to complain that the FBI doesn't cuddle after pulling out.

      • What is important about this, and Cato does it to an extent, is to explain this clearly, without undue emotion or insider jargon. Its also an opportunity to to teach readers exactly how the Apple ecosystem works.

        There was no "handing keys to the iCloud" (apparently) in this case; the iCloud backups were in plaintext. If they were encrypted and Apple handed over decryption keys, this would be a large part of the story, and would undermine their position of not wanting to create a method of undoing the software they use to encrypt user's phones. The message here is that iCloud data is stored plaintext. If you store your data there, it is not protected, can be demanded, and Apple will hand it over.

        Apple are not fighting for a corner of their business; they are trying to keep the NSA/CIA/FBI out of their products by default, across the board. Its taken them some time to get to this point where parts of their services are encrypted. They are not perfect, but the direction of travel is correct. The only people who are against this are men who side with the three letter agencies.

        As a side effect of this case, millions of people are being educated about encryption and how it can protect them. and they are siding with Apple. Apple are doing a job that most people in a position to do something are reluctant to do. Firstly because they have justifiable contempt for the public, and secondly because it is personally dangerous to them. Exceptions like Mircea Popescu, who will publicly defend his customers are very rare, and when someone like Tim Cook who is a pure Statist takes a position like this, it indicates a sea change in thinking of the Statists. Encouraging and applauding this behaviour is the appropriate response. There are two claims someone can make when they take a position against Apple. They can claim that no one is reading, "so it doesn't matter what we say", or if people are reading, "we do not care that we are against Apple moving in the correct direction".

        This case also putting pressure on other Californian CEOs, which will eventually cause them to behave in an ethical way, since that will become the market default. Twitter's Jack Dorsey has publicly sided with Apple's position no matter what its merits are. Twitter, which is going full totalitarian censorship with its Social Justice Council, is going to have a problem reconciling censoring messages on its platform with supporting the absolute denial of access of the State to all devices by default.

        For what its worth, here are some possible facts about this phone, provided by Edward Snowden's Twitter account:

        1) The FBI already has all of the suspect's communications records — who they talked to and how – as these are stored by service providers, not on the phone itself.

        2) The FBI has received comprehensive backups of all the suspect's data until just 6 weeks before the crane.

        3) Copies of the suspect's contacts with co-workers — the FBI's claimed interest — are available in duplicate from those co-workers' phones.

        4) The phone in controversy is a government-issued work phone, subjected to consent-to-monitoring, not a secret terrorist communications device. The "operational" phones believed to be hiding incriminating information, recovered by the FBI during a search, were physically destroyed, not "shielded by Apple."

        5) Alternative means for gaining access to this device — and others — exist that do not require the manufacturers assistance.

        All of these plan facts, every one of which undermines the State's claims and case, are the sort of sober, plain information that everyone needs to read.

        On a similar note, the Pharmaceutical Entrepreneur Martin Skrelli's treatment by the media and the shrieking masses is a direct parallel to the Apple encryption story. Mr. Skrelli owns a Trademark for a drug, and not the Patent for a drug design. The Patent for Daraprim has expired. Anyone with money and a supply of the drug can make a copy of it, and give it away for nothing. This is not being done for several reasons, chief among them is that it is not profitable to do so. No one in the media is explaining these simple facts. The media narrative is that he is holding the suffering AIDS carriers hostage. This is a complete lie, of the same type being used against Apple, who it is being claimed, are aiding "terrorists".

        Central to both of these is media mistreatment of a complex and interesting story. What is required is the publishing and dissemination of thoughtful analysis and fact checking. In both these cases, the media is trying to cast business men as the bad guys, when the absolute opposite is true, and you can be sure these sorts of lies and attacks are going to be applied to sucessful Bitcoin businesses and individuals who use it.

        This is a very interesting and important subject in both instances. The question is what is more useful to a reader? Sober analysis of what is actually going on in a collation of the plainly stated facts, or something that is lightweight. The former is far more interesting, clearly, there is an appetite for it, and its relevant to Bitcoin.

  2. Moreover, Apple says "we can write a backdoor but we won't".

    They should be shipping devices where they *can't* deploy a backdoor without the user approval. Otherwise, all this is just posturing and obvious lies.

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