A few days ago, I was bumping along a tooth-rattlingly rough stretch of interstate when I saw a sign: Rough Road. No kidding, Sparky. A mile or two of shake-rattle-’n’-roll later, another sign: Rough Road. You don’t say. Rocka-rocka-rocka-thumpa-thumpa-thump: Rough Road. Sign after sign after sign: Rough Road.
You know what they could have done with all the time and energy and resources put into erecting those Rough Road signs? Maybe — here’s a crazy notion — put some new blacktop on that sorry lunar hellscape that Uncle Stupid calls I-10. But that’s government for you: “Not only do we refuse to do our job and maintain these roads despite a $40 billion a year budget for doing just that, we’re going to pay a gang of union-goon schmucks $40 an hour to erect signs advertising the length and breadth of the shaft we are giving you.”
With that in mind: Hurray for Tim Cook.
Tim Cook is the CEO of Apple, and Uncle Stupid is leaning on his company just at the moment, demanding that the firm create some specialized iPhone code — call it “FBiOS” — that will allow it to crack the mobile phone used by one of the San Bernardino terrorists. Which is to say, with all of the power and money and other resources we put into national security, law enforcement, and counterterrorism, the Men in Black cannot defeat some yahoo’s iPhone PIN.
This is what happens when you apply the Rough Road–sign model to fighting the war on terror. Yes, of course we’d like to have some prosecutions and convictions in the San Bernardino case, inasmuch as it is clear that the jihadists there did not act without some assistance. And, yes, there probably is some useful information to be had from that iPhone. But there is something deeply unseemly about a gigantic and gigantically powerful national-security apparatus’s being stymied by ordinary consumer electronics and then putting a gun to the head of Apple executives and demanding that they do Uncle Stupid’s job for him.
You know what would be better than prosecuting those who helped the San Bernardino jihadists? Stopping them, i.e., for the Men in Black to do their goddamned jobs. An arranged marriage to a Pakistani woman who spent years doing . . . something . . . in Saudi Arabia? Those two murderous misfits had more red flags on them than Bernie Sanders’s front yard on May Day, and the best minds in American law enforcement and intelligence did precisely squat to stop their rampage. Having failed to do its job, the federal government now seeks even more power — the power to compel Apple to write code rendering the security measures in its products useless — as a reward for its failure.
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