FBI ‘Defrauding the Entire US Public’ in Backdoor Feud With Apple

NSA whistleblower William Binney joined Loud & Clear’s Brian Becker on Thursday to explain the current stalemate between Apple and the FBI over surveillance requests surrounding the San Bernardino killings, and what the outcome of the dispute could mean for the public.



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Binney accused the government of “a power grab. It is the same fearmongering they did after 9/11 and with cybersecurity and so on. Make people afraid so that you can manipulate them any way you want and they’ll let you do anything that you tell them that you need to do in order to keep them safe.”

Binney questions whether government surveillance will keep the American people safe against the often overblown specter of international terrorism.

“There is absolutely no reason to trade security for privacy,” he told Loud & Clear. “The bulk acquisition system that is destroying everybody’s privacy is also destroying the functionality of the intelligence community.”

The FBI has demanded that Apple develop an entirely new iOS operating system, under the guise of unlocking a single phone used by one of the shooters. Apple argues that the FBI request for a backdoor operating system would expose the data of not just one, but all of the company’s 700 million iPhone customers. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook has adamantly refused to comply with the FBI request.

“The FBI wants us to make a new version of the Apple iPhone operating system circumventing several of the important security features, and install it on an iPhone uncovered during the investigation,” Cook said in a media release. The problem, continues Cook, is that “in the wrong hands, this software which does not exist today would have the potential to unlock any iPhone worldwide.”

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Should We Sacrifice Privacy for Safety?

The presentation by the media of the standoff looks something like this, said Becker: “If I’m not a terrorist and I’m not doing anything wrong, and there are terrorists threatening our safety, maybe I don’t mind accepting a bit of government intrusion because we have to catch the terrorists. What do you say to people who would sacrifice privacy?"

“If you aren’t doing anything wrong then you have nothing to fear” is the normal line, said Binney. “It is a very good quote. It comes from Joseph Goebels, the Nazi propaganda minister in the 30s and 40s.”

Binney questions whether government surveillance will keep the American people safe against the often overblown specter of international terrorism.

“There is absolutely no reason to trade security for privacy,” he told Loud & Clear. “The bulk acquisition system that is destroying everybody’s privacy is also destroying the functionality of the intelligence community.”

According to the report, which was produced in conjunction with the Intercept and is based on 2012 documents leaked by U.S. whistleblower and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the surveillance dragnet codenamed Levitation has covered allied trading partners such as the U.S., Britain, Brazil, Germany, Spain, and Portugal. - Sputnik International
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The NSA whistleblower claims the sheer magnitude of data makes it worthless. “They cannot find important data before an attack, they can’t stop anything,” said Binney.

Does the Government Need the Data they are Requesting?      

When asked by Becker whether the government is merely exploiting the tragedy to reverse privacy reforms in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations, Binney agreed, arguing that this is the only conceivable explanation.

“Something is really fishy, here,” said the whistleblower. “The FBI already went into the terrorist’s phone and changed the password one time so, if they can do that, I don’t see why they can’t access the data on the phone.”

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Binney argued further that “they could go onto the Apple Cloud or the ISP to get the data generated by that specific phone,” noting the warrant required a protocol for obtaining the phone data. By forcing the government to access the data through the Cloud or the ISP, rather than a operating system backdoor, the vendor remains in control of the data and is able to provide limited access to the specific data requested in the warrant. That protocol would prevent exposing millions of customers to unlawful surveillance.

What Will Happen Next? Will Apple Need to Release the Data?

Binney said he believed Apple would prevail in the court battle that awaits the company against the FBI. He noted that “the government is asking Apple to do extra work for them,” and that would diminish their brand loyalty and product quality by undoing the security protocols, without even offering to pay.

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“Normally, for this sort of thing, the government at least issues contracts, at least they offer to pay for the effort it takes but they aren’t even offering Apple that,” suggested Binney.

Are all 700 Million iPhone Users at Risk of US Surveillance if Apple Complies?

Specifically, the FBI is asking Apple to remove two key security protocols. First, iPhones are designed to automatically wipe all data if the wrong password is entered more than ten times. Second, there are limits on how fast you can enter passwords under the existing security protocol. “The FBI wants these security measures stopped so that they can do a brute force attack on getting anybody’s password,” Binney explained.

He noted that by creating this alternative operating system, Apple would expose all of its phones to government surveillance. “If you enable certain capabilities on the phone with software then you can put that software or download that software on any phone.”

Binney continued, “you could conceivably do this from the network so that the FBI or NSA would actually be able to download this backdoor-enabled operating system on civilians’ phones in mass wherever they are. “

If We Get Rid of the Bulk Collection of Data, What Do We Replace that With?

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The longtime activist and whistleblower suggested that the intelligence community go back to simple, cost effective measures of the early 1990s. He noted that before bulk data collection there was a program, Thin Thread, that worked more effectively. “You just focus on the targeted individuals that you already know, move on to their associates contacting them, and you could stop these attacks without violating privacy,” he said.

Unfortunately, Binney doesn’t see Thin Thread reemerging anytime soon.

“It was too cheap, it didn’t cost a lot of money,” he said. Binney suggested that, while “a targeted approach is really the way to go,” it wouldn’t, “feed these companies drinking at the trough of government contracts.”

Binney said “what they are really doing is defrauding the entire US public.”


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