FBI Needs to Win Back Public’s Trust

There is a very good reason why a significant portion of the American public, at least 38 percent in recent polls, supports Apple in its battle over the security of the iPhone. A lot of people don’t trust government agencies in general, and the FBI in particular, to obey the law.

And for good reason. Throughout its history, the FBI has routinely and flagrantly violated both criminal law and the provisions of the Constitution.

It’s spied on journalists and political dissidents, eavesdropped on members of Congress and other politicians and covered up or ignored crimes committed by top government officials and informants. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover routinely used the resources at his command to illegally spy on political opponents.

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According to one Justice Department study in 2007, the FBI has been guilty of “serious misuse” of power in its demands for information about individuals — such as financial, phone, and Internet records — without court orders.

Like most people in law enforcement, FBI officials, like Director James Comey, give lip service to respecting the Constitution and the rule of law.

But as is true for many people in law enforcement, that’s just a smokescreen.

Privately, many cops just laugh when you question them about whether something they do is legal or not – or unconstitutional.

Too Often, Their Attitude Is: Civil Liberties Are for Wimps

For some cops, anything that solves a crime is okayillegal wiretapping, a slap here and there, whatever it takes.

They feel that they have difficult jobs, and if they have to bend the rules a little to catch bad guys … well, then so be it.

And on a certain level, Americans respect that.

The reason why the “Dirty Harry” movies were such a hit in the 1970s was precisely because people felt that smirking, cold-blooded killers were being released on “legal technicalities” as oily lawyers worked the system.

But the problem is, “bending the rules” can sometimes mean shooting unarmed people in the back as they run away, and then manufacturing evidence to cover it up – as occurred last year in South Carolina. The only reason any cops are being charged at all is because of the video evidence provided by citizens.

Bryan Thomas/Getty Images
Bryan Thomas/Getty Images

That’s why letting cops bend the rules, or ignore the U.S. Constitution, is not a good idea.

That’s true especially when the “cop” is someone like former CIA Chief David Petraeus or former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or Director of Intelligence James Clapper.

These elites honestly believe they are above the law because of their positions or former positions.

Obeying the Law is for the Little People, Not for Them

That’s why the FBI goes after Apple but doesn’t have the guts to arrest Hillary and why David Petraeus got a slap on the wrist for crimes lesser mortals are currently in jail for right now and why James Clapper could brazenly perjure himself on live television, testifying to Congress, and still be in office.

If you or I did what Clapper did – lie on oath to members of Congress – we’d be sitting in Leavenworth federal penitentiary right now. Instead, Clapper keeps his job and a fat government pension.

Of course, the FBI argues that forcing Apple to crack its own encryption will help them solve crimes.

That isn’t an argument at all.

There are A LOT of illegal, unconstitutional acts that could potentially solve many crimes… but we don’t let cops do them for a reason. Torture would solve many crimes. So would threatening criminals’ children.

The U.S. Constitution Exists Precisely to Avoid the Abuse of Power That Leads to Tyranny

And what we’ve discovered over the last few years is that law enforcement agencies, and the U.S. government in general, have been more than willing to ignore constitutional protections wholesale – all in the name of “fighting terrorism” or catching bad buys.

They are creating the electronic infrastructure for a police state – and then lamely telling us that if we have done nothing wrong we have nothing to worry about.

That’s the same argument the East German secret police used for years as they eavesdropped on citizens’ telephone calls – and it’s chilling that the FBI would even think of saying it.

The appetite for surveillance and illegal spying on the part of government officials is nearly limitless. They are engaged in spying activities that have nothing to do with fighting terrorism.

They are collecting DNA from infants without warrants, recording license plate numbers wherever you go, monitoring all your financial transactions, planting GPS devices, using Stingrays to eavesdrop and follow cell phone calls and on and on.

And that’s just the stuff we know about.

They want the ability to spy on everything, everywhere, and at all times.

That is Why the FBI Desperately Wants to Stop the One Thing That Stands in Their Way: Private Encryption

Private encryption has created the one zone of privacy that the government snoops can’t invade at will (actually, they probably can… but just don’t give those resources to low level agencies like the FBI).

So the FBI says: trust us. It’s a limited case. Just this once.

Whenever a government worker says “just this once,” it really means “forever and always.”

We now know that, in fact, it’s NOT “just this once” for the FBI, either. There are fifteen other cases since last October they want Apple’s help in cracking, none of them involving terrorism.

Let’s stipulate that there may be times we wish the FBI could crack iPhone encryption – in a kidnapping case, say, when a young child’s life hangs in the balance.

In those rare cases when human life is at stake, sure: then we should crack open the iPhone.

But the problem is, the FBI has cried wolf so often… has claimed it needs to spy on everyone so many times… that millions of American citizens no longer trust them.

If they lied a little less, and stopped spying when they had no business spying, then maybe we wouldn’t be arguing about this case.

In recent weeks we’ve seen a U.S. presidential candidate, Donald Trump, display a casual disregard for the rule of law – an instinct for bullying authoritarianism – that must give even rah-rah “screw the Constitution” tough guys pause.

Imagine Donald Trump does win… and he tells the FBI, already accustomed to “bending the rules,” to bend them some more — through, say, the use of torture against people deemed potential security leaks.

Do we really want a proud demagogue like Trump with that kind of unchecked power?

I feel safer knowing that there are some things the government doesn’t get to spy on. Even if it means some horrible crimes go unsolved.

TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.

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