Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) suggested during a recent Judiciary Committee hearing that forcing U.S. technology giants to include backdoors in devices for government surveillance is a matter of fiscal responsibility.
The elderly committee chair’s argument about the need for government to be able to snoop through electronic communications with ease comes from her apparent shock that the FBI paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to a third-party hacker to gain access to an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters.
“I was so struck when San Bernardino happened and you made overtures to allow that device to be opened, and then the FBI had to spend $900,000 to hack it open,” Feinstein said, according to the Associated Press. “And as I subsequently learned of some of the reason for it, there were good reasons to get into that device.”
The government made the decision to bring in the hackers after ending a court battle with Apple.
But as former Congressman Ron Paul noted last year, the government didn’t just begin wanting access to encrypted devices following the San Bernardino shooting.
Paul wrote: “[T]he truth is they had long sought a way to break Apple’s iPhone encryption and, like 9/11 and the PATRIOT Act, a mass murder provided just the pretext needed. After all, they say, if we are going to be protected from terrorism we have to give up a little of our privacy and liberty. Never mind that government spying on us has not prevented one terrorist attack.”
The liberty advocate also pointed out: “[T]his new, more secure iPhone was developed partly in response to Ed Snowden’s revelations that the federal government was illegally spying on us.”
And with Feinstein complaining that the government had to spend money to hack the shooter’s phone, it’s worth looking at what’s already being spent to violate American privacy.
Over the next two years, according to the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the Trump administration wants to invest nearly $100 million in taxpayer funding to help the FBI and other intelligence agencies defeat encryption.
Since 2011, the NSA has cost U.S. taxpayers around $75 billion.
When the San Bernardino attack occurred in 2015, NSA was operating under a budget of about $10 billion.
What does the agency do with all that money? Well, thanks to Snowden we know that it sweeps up all digital communications data in real time and scours it for signs of budding extremism.
In other words, if the “good reasons to get into that device” Feinstein referenced included text messages and other communications to extremists involved in the San Bernardino attack, the NSA had them.
The information would have made its way to the NSA’s $1.5 billion 1 million square-foot data center in Utah where it stores the data it collects in the surveillance dragnet.
Why does all of this matter? Because Feinstein wants you to believe that the government needs to save $900,000 by making hacking easier—and that we’ll all be safer for it.
That is a load of bullsh*t.
The government missed the San Bernardino shooters, and numerous other real terrorists, because it’s too busy collecting information on millions of people who pose no threat to the nation.
It is information overload— and people like Feinstein are telling us the smart thing to do would be to have more.
I strongly urge you to read Bob Livingston’s 2015 piece, “San Bernardino terror attack lays bare the fraud of government,” which exposes the massive fraud that the government surveillance state commits against American citizens every day.