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October 21, 2014

Feds Angry at Apple, Google, for Thwarting Unauthorized Spying

The Obama administration is pretty upset by news released by two of the few American corporations that liberals usually adore – Apple and Google. What have these corporations done to incur such wrath? Apple started it with the announcement that its iPhone 6 is being released with an encrypted operating system which will likely take years for government spies to crack, and worse (for government), Apple will not retain their users’ passwords, meaning they can’t divulge user data even if subpoenaed by the federal government. After Apple’s announcement, Google revealed that it will also provide additional protection for users, by setting as the default encryption on its OS to thwart government snooping.

The wailing Cassandras roaming the halls of the CIA and FBI temples are of course prophesying of the apocalyptic destruction that will result from this development, claiming terrorist attacks are more likely now because they will not be able to tap the communications of terrorists plotting to kill us.

And while that may be theoretically true, an argument can be made that it may actually improve their capabilities because now, instead of trying to sift through the phone calls and text messages of 310 million American citizens, they will now be forced to do actual investigative work by focusing their limited resources on only those people that have shown a likelihood of being involved in terrorist activities.

The federal government is like a malignant tumor, growing and devouring everything in its path. It acquires power for the sake of power, and exerts force to protect that power. At the same time, it is a slow, dim-witted colossus, relying on its massive size and brute force to maintain compliant servitude by the masses it purports to serve. In fact, history has shown that the more ineffective it is at its stated goal (in this case, protecting Americans from terrorist attacks), the more that incompetence is used as a justification for expanded power and growth.

Private companies have no such luxury. They must provide goods and services to their customers at value and price points for which customers are willing to part with their hard-earned money (or what is left of it after the gaping maw of the federal leviathan devours its portion). So it should come as no surprise that even companies that have in other areas climbed into bed with government when it benefits them, these corporate prostitutes now act in their own self-interest to maintain the revenue they need from millions of customers.

The impetus for these changes was the revelation last year by Edward Snowden of the breadth and depth of the programs run by our government to spy on its own citizens – ALL of its citizens – even without a warrant. Such programs are a blatant violation of the 4th Amendment protections for us to be secure in our “persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures”, without a warrant “particularly (specifically detailed) describing the places to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” They also violate the 5th Amendment protections against self-incrimination by opening up to government spies, without a warrant, our most personal thoughts and actions.

The fact is that only a tiny fraction of the massive data collected and retained by the federal government is actually used by intelligence and law enforcement agencies, yet with so much of our lives documented through our digital communications, anyone with access and a nefarious motive can see the most intimate and personal aspects of our existence.

This was evident when reports were leaked that some NSA officials with access to the data had used that access to spy on ex-spouses and lovers. Further investigation of NSA practices revealed that the agency routinely violated statutory law and constitutional protections in the process of collecting this personal information, an average of several thousand times a year.

The IT/tech industry faced consumer backlash after it was revealed last year that the NSA’s “Prism” program allowed the NSA direct access to private data of users of services provided by internet giants like Microsoft, Google, YouTube, Facebook, Skype, and AOL. Additionally, foreign companies began to look for other options for these tech services for fear that their data would be available to the U.S. government. The result was that these American firms knew they must better protect user privacy or lose substantial market share.

The Obama administration’s response to these concerns about privacy violations has been as unsurprising as it has been disappointing. Rather than reforming their policies and procedures to make sure that they can pursue legitimate suspects without violating the rights of hundreds of millions of Americans, the government has doubled down, justifying their actions in the name of national security and telling us that we should not fear their spying unless we are doing something wrong. That is exactly backward.

If any further proof was needed that government cannot be trusted, we have only to look at the recent revelation that the government threatened to fine Yahoo! With fines of $250,000 PER DAY if they refused to turn over user data to the NSA, with that fine doubling every week until the company complied.

These are not the actions of a servant government of a free and sovereign people. These are the actions of a government that has decided that it is the master and the people are the servants, and since a master does not explain or justify its actions to a servant, our government feels no need to explain its actions to us, much less change.

There may be a silver lining to these actions of the Obama administration. It may just be the wake-up call that the citizens of this nation need to see that, regardless of political ideology, this nation needs to begin the long, slow process of returning to limited, constitutional government. Government is to be tolerated and restrained, and the bigger the government, the less it is to be tolerated and the more it is to be restrained.

Because of our unprecedented level of prosperity, Americans have largely ignored the long, slow slide into a form of bureaucratic tyranny that has been growing for decades. From spying on its citizens to local police departments arming themselves with battlefield equipment more appropriate to the streets of Mosul than Milwaukee, it is clear that every American has a right to be concerned for the future of their freedoms when government is so brazen and unapologetic in its abuses.

Shortly after the end of the Revolutionary War, Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter to William Stephens Smith, “What country before ever existed a century and half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

Our republic is nearly a century older than Jefferson’s 150-year threshold, and in that century government has grown ever larger and more tyrannical. If the American people educate themselves on the founding principles of this nation, and then exert their will through the political process, then we still have the opportunity for a peaceful return to the joys of individual liberty and limited government.

If, on the other hand, we continue to be apathetic to the abuses heaped on our fellow citizens until government knocks down OUR door, then we will have lost that window of opportunity, and will be left only with the choice of violent rebellion, as our forefathers faced, or with the groveling submission of slaves.

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