As I’m writing this, we’re finding out more about the FBI raid at the Mar-a-Lago resort, the primary residence of former President Trump. I won’t bother rehashing the details from last Monday. Unless you’ve been living on Mars, you’re already aware of them. Heck, odds are that even if you’ve been living on Mars, you’re aware of them.
Of far more import is the reason behind the seizure of the documents. The Department of Justice hasn’t said much of anything. What we know is from the cover page of the warrant and the property list. According to them, they took cases of classified documents, including some marked “Top Secret” and “SCI.” They also grabbed some photo albums and a letter from the Italian Prime Minister.
We also know that they were looking for evidence of espionage.
I don’t want to say that’s a fantastic allegation, but stop to consider what that charge means. It means that a President of the United States is actively working as a spy for an unnamed foreign government.
Ok, forget fantastic. I know the severely TDS impaired types are lapping that up. But we’ve seen this story before, with the dummied up “Russia Russia Russia” idiocy that tied the nation in knots for 3 years. Let’s not forget how many times we heard that the FBI had proof of that conspiracy, only to have it all fall apart.
So, here we are (again). The FBI is trying to tell us that Donald Trump is a foreign agent (again). Their proof? Well, we don’t have any (again) and they won’t tell us their causi belli (again).
All of this is quite laughable, except that the Very Serious People are all nodding their heads like those dashboard bobble-heads in agreement. “We got him NOW!” they’re screaming from the ivory towers.
Except, of course, they don’t have him on anything. Trump’s lawyers are already saying the documents in question were declassified before he left office – and that they notified the DOJ and National Archives of this back in June. Already this latest tempest in a teapot is devolving into what amounts to a bureaucratic snafu, a battle over clerical matters of what paperwork was filed where and with whom.
Of far greater importance is what the raid signifies to everyone to the right politically of Al Gore. I keep hearing from pundits that Merrick Garland is apolitical. I think that’s a massive miscalculation. Garland is every bit as political as any member of Joe Biden’s cabinet. More than likely, he authorized the extremely broad search-and-seizure warrant in hopes of uncovering damning evidence that Trump led the January 6th riots.
It’s a political miscalculation of the highest order. Instead of finding a silver bullet, they let a genie out that may never get back into the bottle. Why? Regardless of what many non-Trump conservatives think about Trump as a man, most just had their suspicions about progressive infiltration of our government confirmed. Instead of permanently putting Donald Trump to pasture, Garland’s faux pas probably handed the GOP nomination in 2024 to him.
You can bet Trump will remind voters of the DOJ’s corruption daily during that campaign, ginning up the GOP turnout. Democrats may well rue August 8, 2022 for a long, long time.
As of this writing, it’s been about 12 hours since the FBI executed a search warrant at the Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida. It’s notable because it is the first time in history the principle federal law enforcement agency has ever legally searched the primary residence of a former president.
Press reports indicate the search warrant was to identify and locate official records from President Trump’s tenure, including possible national security documents. If the President was in possession of such records, he would be in violation of several laws. Those laws carry significant penalties. Most importantly, one of those laws is the Official Secrets Act. Were the former President convicted under that law, he could face up to 20 years in prison.
There’s no way to look at this without recognizing the political and social implications. President Trump still commands a large and overly devoted following. Additionally, many more Americans may not necessarily support him, but do support the political agenda he represents. If this warrant wasn’t predicated on strong evidence, or the search didn’t yield anything of importance, then he will be vindicated in his claims of a witch hunt. The result will be an absolute decimation of the Democrat Party and complete loss of faith in the government and its institutions.
Which is why I tend to think there must have been significant evidence presented in the affadavit for the warrant. We like to think judges are impartial and free of political considerations. But there isn’t a person alive who doesn’t understand the historic implications of searching a president’s residence. There isn’t a judge anywhere who would not recognize that searching this particular president’s residence has the potential to tear the country apart. Signing that warrant put into motion the potential for political violence on a scale we haven’t seen since the late 1960s and early 1970s.
An indictment is almost certainly forthcoming. The judge who signed the warrant had to have reached the same conclusion. Without that level of evidence, they wouldn’t have taken that risk. That’s the reality of this moment.
Any ensuing trial will be the most closely watched in history. If the evidence isn’t ironclad, a large segment of society will never accept a verdict. If the charge is something spurious (a la convicting Al Capone of tax evasion), the anti-Trump part of society would recognize a pyrrhic victory. Yes, Donald Trump would be convicted of a federal crime and barred from holding office, but the “witch hunt” claims would be bolstered. Instead of removing him from the political scene, it will only make him even more influential.
These are certainly considerations made by the Justice Department. The risks associated with this prosecution are immense and there is virtually no upside unless there is a slam dunk case. For the sake of the country, let’s hope they haven’t miscalculated.
Well, actually everyone is missing a few things regarding the fight between Apple and the FBI.
First, in case you’re living under a rock, to recap what the fight is over. One of the San Bernardino shooters had an iPhone that was issued to him through his job, a county agency. The FBI would like to look at the data on the phone, as it might contain information valuable to tracing the terrorists movements, finances and communications prior to the attack. This is not an unreasonable thought. It seems as if the FBI crossed all their legal T’s and dotted their Constitutional I’s, even getting a warrant for the search. Unfortunately, the FBI is incapable of getting past the security measures Apple has built into the iPhone’s operating system. So they went back to court and obtained an order that compels Apple to bypass the phone’s security. Apple is refusing, citing privacy concerns.
That’s the 10,000 foot view of the issue. And were it that easy, I don’t think Apple would put up this much a fuss about it. The problem comes about once you drop down and look at the issue up close. And the reason everyone is freaking out, I think, is they don’t understand the technology or how it works. They only know that it works – which, of course, is what makes Apple’s iOS so successful.
That’s the first thing that everyone is missing: nobody actually understands what it is they’re complaining about. For a guy who’s worked in software development and mobile tech, it would be comical if the stakes weren’t so high. Everyone just assumes that Apple can magically give the FBI the phone’s unlock code. It isn’t that easy. The iPhone’s encryption is integral to iOS – the only way to get past the unlock code is to break the encryption within iOS. To comply with the FBI’s request, Apple would have to write a software program that would alter the way iOS functions. In essence, they would have to destroy their own product.
That’s the second thing that everyone is missing: the government’s order would require Apple to blow up their business model. One of the reasons, perhaps the biggest reason, Apple has been so successful is they’ve stuck to a simple proposition for over 20 years. That proposition is that their software and hardware live as an integrated unit. Form and function, together as one. To make that happen, Apple’s products have always worked with proprietary, closed operating systems. The underlying code is not available to the general public. The FBI is asking Apple to do the exact opposite of what they’ve always done. To write code that opens iOS to the public domain; in essence, to allow anyone with minimal code writing ability to alter the way iOS (and thus, the iPhone itself) works. Is that reasonable? Can the government actually require a private firm to fundamentally change the way they do business, create products and market them?
The next thing everyone seems to be missing is that the government has massive signals intelligence infrastructure. It includes the NSA, CIA, DIA, as well as the FBI and 12 other agencies you might not have heard of. A major part of signals intelligence is code-breaking. By demanding Apple break their encryption, the United States Intelligence Community is announcing to the world they are incapable of cracking the code themselves.
The Director of National Intelligence’s counterparts in Beijing, Tehran and Moscow must be laughing themselves silly at the admission.
Now, this might sound ludicrous, but it seems to me that a government that spends $4 trillion every year can come up with $600 to buy an iPhone and have one of their ace code-breakers get past the iOS encryption. If they can’t, then we need to seriously ask why people aren’t being fired.
Finally, the last thing everyone seems to be missing is what having the iOS code broken and in the public domain would mean for privacy and security in the digital age. This isn’t like asking for the key to a locked room. The reality is that most of us have our entire lives on our phones. Everything from sensitive financial data to our Facebook profiles live in the bits and bytes of data stored on them. The government is asking Apple to provide a tool that would allow everyone access to everything stored there. Additionally, if your one of the millions of users who’ve stored things in the cloud, that data would also be available to anyone with a $10 NFC reader and 30 seconds to get close enough to pull it from your phone. The concept of privacy would be moot.
It’s a lot to digest. But what many in the media and government want to portray as relatively simple is anything but.