Washington, DC -- (ReleaseWire) -- 02/25/2016 --DAWN BENNETT: Jeffrey Tucker is the chief liberty officer and founder of Liberty.me, a social network for a liberty minded people. He is also the director of digital development for the Foundation for Economic Education. As the former editorial vice-president of Ludwig von Mises Institute and the former editor for the institute's web site Mises.org., Tucker clearly understands the freedom isn't free. History has shown us that the path to liberty almost invariably involves conflict and today is no different. Today the conflict is between the individual and the state, the government using fear to dismantle the freedoms that previous generations paid such a steep price to achieve. Jeffrey, welcome to Financial Myth Busting.
JEFFREY TUCKER: Thanks so much for having me on.
BENNETT: So we found out this week, Jeffrey, that the U.S. government, the FBI has demanded that Apple build a back door to the iPhone. For the unacquainted out there, can you give us a quick overview of the current showdown between the Feds and Apple?
TUCKER: Sure. Apple responded to many of the revelations coming out of Edward Snowden, where Snowden had proved that the government invaded Americans' privacy without the permission of even providers like Google, that had built back doors. And these companies were shocked, really, just at the power and the aggressiveness and the duplicity of government agencies, just their voracious desire to know everything about our lives. And Apple responded by building an encryption tool in its operating system, and it's really awesome. What it means is that if somebody tries to access your iPhone and gets the password wrong 10 times, then the entire-- all the data blows up on it, and that's the end, and the thing is wiped out, and since it's all encrypted data, Apple itself doesn't have access to it. And they've been very overt about this for several years now. They've declared ever since the Snowden thing that they decided they wanted to protect users' information. This is extremely important for your privacy, financial security; just everything about our lives is nowadays wrapped up in the smartphone. So the Feds are fed up with it, really, and they're using the San Bernardino case as an excuse, but that's just not really it. They want a back door to your cellphone, basically.
TUCKER: That's what they want; it's nothing to do with San Bernardino. I agree with you on that.
BENNETT: No, no. Because they can't even change that. There's nothing they can do to crack that one phone. It has the iOS on there; they can't change that. What they want is Apple to rewrite its operating system to please them. It's very scary, because I look at these guys that are running for president right now. Trump is saying, 'Boycott Apple until they rebuild.' I mean, if he wins the presidency, then he has personal access to the contents of not just every American's cellphone, but the cellphone of people all over the world; everyone in China, in Saudi Arabia, in Pakistan, in Russia.
BENNETT: Oh, absolutely. That's got to make people nervous. I'm just hoping that's Trump theatrics. I can't help to think he built his billions acting like this, so I'm going to keep thinking that eventually he understands that, as I said this earlier, ompanies like Google and Facebook are trying to make money from knowing things about you, but Apple's different. They've chosen to protect you more than anyone else. I hope the federal court system actually sees that. I do realize that Snowden is actually a hero to many people in Silicon Valley. I know that Steve Wozniak, one of the co-founders for Apple, called Snowden a hero. I don't know if CEO Tim Cook actually said that, I do think he said, 'I don't think that the country or the government has actually found that right balance yet. They've just erred so much on the collect everything side.'
TUCKER: Yeah, they really have. I think what Edward Snowden did was incredibly wonderful. But you don't have to believe that in order to understand just the importance of security on your phone. Just imagine right now if somebody grabbed your phone, and it's somebody who meant to do you harm, and they had access to the codes that unlock the opening screen and could just take their time and dig through every email, every selfie, every conversation, every text, every SnapChat. The power of that is incredible. I mean, you'd far rather have somebody just, like, walking through your house, actually. Your life would be at an end. It would be a disaster. And Apple is profoundly aware of this, which is why they've built in an awesome encrypted iOS into their new releases. And that the government is against it is really an attack against the American people. And I agree with you; God bless Tim Cook, you know? It reminds me of that scene in Atlas Shrugged where Hank Rearden resists the orders from the central planners to give up his product, and really defies them, and eventually he loses. I don't think, though, that Apple's going to lose this, because they hold all the cards. And Americans are incredibly naive about what this means.
BENNETT: They really are.
TUCKER: I mean, the fact that people are still going out and voting for Trump, even though he says he wants to crack all their cellphones, it shows just how silly people are. But there's a lot of places around the world where people are not so naive; they rightly see the government as their enemy, that the people who can arrest them and control their lives and persecute them and destroy their human rights. And having access to that digital data is the means that governments use.
BENNETT: Do you think this could be the start of more US companies and more Americans standing up against our government?
TUCKER: I hope so. What Apple has done here is really the culmination of a 20 year old battle over encryption. You know, when this whole digital age began, the federal government demanded that PGP did not have any kind of public access, either. They initially prosecuted the guy who invented the first encryption keys under a World War I enemy exportation act, or something like that. MIT famously published the code in a book in response. So the digital community has been in a 20 year defiance of this kind of stuff. But I must say, Tim Cook's letter—and everyone should read it, actually; it's really articulate, really brilliant, bold, courageous, moral. I think it's the kind of corporate leadership we really need in America. And I hope you're right that it emboldens others to take the same path.
BENNETT: Do you know the McAfee antivirus software?
TUCKER: I do.
BENNETT: John McAfee, the creator, I think he told the FBI he could hack this iPhone free of charge, and I'm wondering if the FBI's actually going to take him up on it.
TUCKER: Yeah, they might do. But, I mean, McAfee is such a clown.
BENNETT: I don't know if they'd believe him.
TUCKER: No, and of course he couldn't, actually. There's just simply no way. He'd have to have access to the phone before he could. I mean, anybody can hack a phone, but you first have to have access, because access is key. And he wouldn't be able to get it. There's just no way. 10 wrong password attempts and the data's gone. And there's just no workaround for that, and that's awesome. That is such a wonderful protection for consumers. You know, people really need to understand; this is all about themselves, it's all about their privacy. You know, the FBI was disdainful towards Tim Cook's statement. They said, 'Oh, he's just doing this for publicity, to promote his business.' Well, my thought to that is, okay, if that's true, that's okay, because Apple's business interests coincide with human rights, so it's the FBI that's the outlier.
BENNETT: Our first amendment rights.
TUCKER: Yeah, the first amendment. And the last people to trust with your data is the government. Think about every time the government has mixed up something in your own life, whether it's social security administration, the IRS, or the local DMV. I mean, governments specialize in misusing, mixing up, and abusing data at your expense. And so can you just imagine what would happen under conditions where basically that gigantic government warehouse in Utah that does nothing but collect digital data on you has the contents of everybody's real-time smartphone use all over the world? It's inconceivable and it just simply can't happen. Tim Cook can't allow it to happen. It would lead to truly horrible things all over the world. And it wouldn't just be the U.S. government that would demand access; it would be every government in the world would immediately jump in. So suddenly you've got Putin having access too and China.
BENNETT: Equal access, yes. You know, the thing that strikes me as particularly perverse about this FBI order is that they're essentially conscripting Apple coders to work for them on a project they have no interest in participating in. And since when can the government compel people to work for them in a way they find objectionable?
TUCKER: That is a really interesting point. And what if they declined to do so? What if Apple programmers just decided to take an early retirement, and they did it en masse, like a strike? You remember we talked about Atlas Shrugged earlier; that's an interesting scenario, where programmers go on strike and say, 'No, we won't hack these phones.' I don't know what happens then. They have to build a prison camp and arrest everybody and stick them in there and say, 'Hack this. rewrite this operating system until we can have access to it.'
BENNETT: What's interesting is Apple does have the money—200 billion plus sitting in cash—to fight this. Their pockets are probably deeper than the U.S. government's pockets, I would have to say, to fight this in the long haul.
TUCKER: You know, I think this is the world we need to live in. I would like to see us in a world where there are 20, 30, 50, 100 companies that have greater assets than the federal government, more liquid funds than the federal government. Because that would put us back to pretty much what was actually the existing situation in America between about 1880 and 1910, and that was the freest period in American life; after slavery, and before the income tax, the Federal Reserve, and World War I. And in those days, there were giant companies, and they were all bigger and more important to Americans' lives than the federal government. And we were freer; we had far more economic growth. We didn't have to constantly ask for permission to do everything. We got more social progress in those days. I would like to get back to those times.
BENNETT: So would a lot of Americans.
TUCKER: And take our iPhones with us.
BENNETT: You know, many conservatives out there, those who are usually skeptical of big government, are lining up with the FBI, on the basis that America's security is at stake. How do you respond to that kind of argument? Is this a time when it makes sense for Apple to put national security first?
TUCKER: Well, I must say, that fact surprised me very, very much. And I'm not sure I know how to make sense of it, except to say that there must be a lot of sort of older conservatives out there, you know, older Republican voters and conservatives who just don't understand the nature of the digital world we're living in, people who are just mystified and confused about technology. Because to believe that this has anything to do with national security is just a grave error. And I just assume it's kind of a generational issue. I don't personally know anybody who holds that view. But I recall last week, when Donald Trump said this, I thought like I've thought a hundred times, 'Well, that's it for him. Nobody's going to support that.' And then, sure enough, he got a lot of support for his position. He seems to have a good intuition about what the sort of older, white Republican voters want to hear. But it makes me sad, because it represents just kind of a knowledge gap on the part of a lot of people, if they think this has anything to do with national security.
BENNETT: Or it could just be a knee-jerk reaction, saying, 'Give the government whatever it needs to make us safe.'
TUCKER: Yeah, but, you know, the problem with that kind of reaction is that that power will always be turned against you and me and everybody else. It's not the enemies of America who are going to be worrying about that. They have other ways to encrypt data. They don't have to use smartphones; they can do other things. Whereas this power will be used to control the American people and to go after political enemies of whoever happens to be in power. And whether that's Hilary Clinton or Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders or Marco Rubio, none of these guys can be trusted with that kind of power ever. It's just wrong. It's a Soviet level of surveillance that they're demanding, and it's positively un-American.
BENNETT: Before we close, I know that you wrote a piece last week, a very touching encounter you had with the late Justice Scalia, and I was wondering if you could share very quickly with our listeners what you wrote about him.
TUCKER: Yeah, I'll just tell it very quickly. You know, his funeral was yesterday, and it was very touching. And I had my disagreements with Scalia, but I never doubted the sincerity of him as a man. And after he died, I decided to tell a story that I've kept inside my head and my heart for years, about a small act of charity that he engaged in after church one day, when he didn't know the cameras were on. A woman whose face was filled with sores and her hands were filled with sores and there was something wrong with her, mentally, she threw her arms around him. He didn't recoil, push her away, and walk back. Instead, he held her very tightly close to him for five minutes, calmed her down, said words comforting her, until she stopped crying.
BENNETT: Thank you, Jeff, for that. We appreciate it.
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About Dawn Bennett
Dawn Bennett is CEO and Founder of Bennett Group Financial Services. She hosts a national radio program called Financial Myth Busting http://www.financialmythbusting.com.
She discusses educational topics and events in the financial news, along with her thoughts on the economy, financial markets, investments, and more with her live guests, who have included rock legend Ted Nugent, as well as Steve Forbes and Grover Norquist. Listeners can call 855-884-DAWN a as well as take podcasts on the road and forums for interaction.
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