Richard Clarke: U.S. government more interested in setting legal precedent than solving the problem of one iPhone

NPR’s David Greene talks to former national security official Richard Clarke about the fight between Apple and the FBI. The FBI wants an iPhone that was used by one of the San Bernardino shooters unlocked.

From the transcript:

RICHARD CLARKE: For nine years, I was the senior counterterrorism official in the U.S. government. And I went to bed every night worrying about terrorist attacks. Had I done enough to stop a terrorist attack that might be out there that I don’t know about? I know what the counterterrorism feels like because I was there. But I also operated within limits. And within the United States government, we’ve decided long ago that there are limits on what we’re going to do in the war against terrorism. Under the Obama administration, for example, we’ve said we’re not going to torture people. You know, we could, at the far extreme to make the FBI’s job easier, put ankle bracelets on everybody so that we’d know where everybody was all the time. That’s a ridiculous example, but my point is encryption and privacy are larger issues than fighting terrorism.

GREENE: But can you just explain why you would compare, you know, a company helping the government design a way to unlock an iPhone to something extreme as torture and ankle bracelets? I mean, that sounds like a very extreme jump.

CLARKE: No, the point I’m trying to make is there are limits. And what this is is a case where the federal government, using a 1789 law, is trying to compel speech. And courts have ruled in the past, appropriately, that the government cannot compel speech. What the FBI and the Justice Department are trying to do is to make code writers at Apple – to make them write code that they do not want to write that will make their systems less secure.

CLARKE: Well, I don’t think it’s a fierce debate. I think the Justice Department and the FBI are on their own here. You know, the secretary of defense has said how important encryption is when asked about this case. The National Security Agency director and three past National Security Agency directors, a former CIA director, a former Homeland Security secretary have all said that they’re much more sympathetic with Apple in this case. You really have to understand that the FBI director is exaggerating the need for this and is trying to build it up as an emotional case, organizing the families of the victims and all of that. And it’s Jim Comey and the attorney general is letting him get away with it.

GREENE: So if you were still inside the government right now as a counterterrorism official, could you have seen yourself being more sympathetic with the FBI in doing everything for you that it can to crack this case?

CLARKE: No, David. If I were in the job now, I would have simply told the FBI to call Fort Meade, the headquarters of the National Security Agency, and NSA would have solved this problem for them. They’re not as interested in solving the problem as they are in getting a legal precedent.

Read more and listen to the full interview here.

MacDailyNews Take: Boom! The more prominent people speaking the truth on Apple’s behalf, the better.

Hopefully, if this country is still working correctly, the only legal precedent set will be plain to the FBI, DOJ et al. that they have no right to demand of anyone what they’re demanding currently.

Adhere to the U.S. Constitution. Oppose government overreach.

Apple counsel: U.S. DOJ ‘got a little bit carried away’ with encryption rhetoric – March 14, 2016
After Apple, Obama administration’s War on Privacy targets Facebook’s WhatsApp – March 14, 2016
FBI could demand Apple source code and keys if iPhone backdoor too ‘burdensome’ – March 14, 2016
Obama criticized for ‘tone deaf’ comments at SXSW regarding Apple’s fight against government overreach – March 14, 2016
The U.S. government’s fight with Apple could backfire big time – March 14, 2016
John Oliver just smartly explained Apple’s fight against U.S. government overreach – March 14, 2016
U.S. Congressman Darrell Issa at SXSW: ‘Hold your iPhone a little bit higher, so the FBI can hear us better’ – March 14, 2016
Obama pushes for iPhone back door; Congressman Issa blasts Obama’s ‘fundamental lack of understanding’ – March 12, 2016
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch backs U.S. government overreach on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert – March 11, 2016
Former CIA Director: FBI wants to dictate iPhone’s operating system – March 11, 2016
U.S. government takes cheap shots at Apple – March 11, 2016
FBI warns it could demand Apple’s iPhone code and secret electronic signature – March 10, 2016
California Democrat Diane Feinstein backs U.S. government overreach over Apple – March 10, 2016
Obama lists the ‘tech leaders’ involved in new U.S. Cybersecurity Initiative and purposely snubs Apple – March 10, 2016
Snowden: U.S. government’s claim it can’t unlock San Bernardino iPhone is ‘bullshit’ – March 10, 2016
U.S. Congressman Darrell Issa: The FBI should try to unlock shooter’s iPhone without Apple’s help – March 2, 2016
Apple: The law already exists that protects us from U.S. government demands to hack iPhone – February 26, 2016
Apple said to be prepping iOS version that even it can’t hack – February 25, 2016
U.S. Representative Darrell Issa on Apple vs. FBI: Very scary when your government wants to know more about you – February 24, 2016
U.S. government seeks to force Apple to extract data from a dozen more iPhones – February 23, 2016
Apple could easily lock rights-trampling governments out of future iPhones – February 20, 2016
Apple CEO Tim Cook lashes out at Obama administration over encryption, bemoans White House lack of leadership – January 13, 2016
Short-timer U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder blasts Apple for protecting users’ privacy against government overreach – September 30, 2014
Obama administration demands master encryption keys from firms in order to conduct electronic surveillance against Internet users – July 24, 2013


  1. To all the flamers out there: you were wrong. Please cease and desist from making any more pathetic statements about supporting the FBI.

    “It is Jim Comey [FBI head], and the Attorney General is letting him get away with it.”

    And let us not forget that the President is letting the Attorney General get away with it.

    So much for solemn oaths of office to uphold the law of the land. We need public officials with more integrity.

  2. Ah the NSA could crack the phone, and they probably do, after all when you are bereft of morality and ethics there is no limit as to how you would go. Fortunately they are all above the law. Just like the Nazis were.

  3. Listening to Clarke, he’s clearly taken in the opinions of others in government, especially within the security branches. He provides a sane summary and offers his sane view of the situation. He should be running the FBI. James Comey requires the boot. Comey is more dangerous and ignorant than he is useful or helpful.

  4. Richard Clarke was a great public servant who was ignored by the Dubya Administration.

    After Fat Tony Scalia et al appointed Bush the President, the incoming administration was briefed by the outgoing and was told that Al Qaeda was the biggest security threat to the US and encouraged them to meet with Mr Clarke ASAP. Despite his office being in the West Wing, they did not meet with him until September 12, 2001 – one of the greatest acts of incompetence and negligence in US history.

    Despite this, he was the only officer of the US Hovernment to publicly apologize to the American people. Not one member of the Bush Nationsl Security Council had met with him despite his being the counter-terrorism point man and being advised by the outgoing administration of the need to meet with him quickly. That is why most Americans laugh their ass off when Republicans try to peddle the bullshit about being better at national security. Like almost all NeoCon claims, it has no basis in fact.

    It should also be noted that FBI Director Comey is not only an asshole, he is a Republican asshole.

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