U.S. Attorney General William Barr, along with co-conspirators in the UK and Australia, recently wrote a letter to Mark Zuckerberg requesting he not move forward with a plan to implement end-to-end encryption across Facebook’s messaging services. A draft of the letter was published earlier this month by Buzzfeed, and it’s worth examining in some detail.
What immediately strikes you is the letter’s emphasis on “protecting the children,” a talking point universally used by authoritarians throughout history to justify both a reduction of public liberty and a transfer of increased power to the state. Though this tactic is transparent and well understood by those paying attention, it’s nevertheless disturbing to observe Barr’s disingenuous and shameless use of it (the words ‘child’ and ‘children’ appear 17 times in the course of this brief letter).
Here’s just one example from the letter:
Companies should not deliberately design their systems to preclude any form of access to content, even for preventing or investigating the most serious crimes. This puts our citizens and societies at risk by severely eroding a company’s ability to detect and respond to illegal content and activity, such as child sexual exploitation and abuse, terrorism, and foreign adversaries’ attempts to undermine democratic values and institutions, preventing the prosecution of offenders and safeguarding of victims. It also impedes law enforcement’s ability to investigate these and other serious crimes. Risks to public safety from Facebook’s proposals are exacerbated in the context of a single platform that would combine inaccessible messaging services with open profiles, providing unique routes for prospective offenders to identify and groom our children.
Barr and the U.S. government feign deep concern regarding the ability of bad people to “identify and groom our children,” yet this is the same guy and government who allowed Jeffrey Epstein to be suicided in a Department of Justice prison just a few months ago. It’s the same guy and government who can’t find or doesn’t want to find Ghislaine Maxwell. And it’s same guy and government that can’t be bothered to raid Epstein’s New Mexico ranch despite known instances of child abuse there.
Allegations of sex abuse against Epstein in New Mexico date back to the mid-1990s. An affidavit filed in April alleges Epstein and his supposed ex-girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell told a 15-year-old girl to “take off all of her clothes” and then “touched her inappropriately” on a massage table at the ranch in 1996.
In a lawsuit filed Tuesday morning, an accuser claims Epstein coerced the girl to engage in sex acts at Zorro Ranch between 2007 and 2010.
How stupid do they think we are?
Moreover, there are several reasons aside from the clearly corrupt and dishonest handling of the Jeffrey Epstein case that should lead to distrust in William Barr. Despite all the empty talk of Trump “draining the swamp,” there are few individuals alive today more swampy than Attorney General Barr.
"Bulldog"? William Barr joined the CIA right after college. He was also the AG under Bush 1, who was previously the head of the CIA. His father, Donald Barr was in the OSS (precursor to the CIA). Barr is consummate swamp thing and the last person on earth who will provide justice https://t.co/zKODorL2bu
— Michael Krieger (@LibertyBlitz) August 29, 2019
Naturally, there’s more. Here’s some of what the man was up to while Attorney General under the first Bush.
The Justice Department under Attorney General William Barr launched a vast surveillance program that gathered records of innocent Americans’ international phone calls without first conducting a review of whether it was legal, the department’s inspector general concluded Thursday.
It happened in 1992, the last time Barr served as attorney general.
The secret program, run by the Drug Enforcement Administration, ultimately gathered billions of records of nearly all phone calls from the United States to 116 countries, with little oversight from Congress or the courts, a USA TODAY investigation found. It provided a blueprint for far broader phone-data surveillance the government launched after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
It appears the entire unconstitutional mass surveillance apparatus we have today was actually birthed via secret actions taken by Barr nearly three decades ago, and he’s now come back to finish the job. This man has a long and well-documented track record of despising liberty and human privacy.
Finally, it’s noteworthy that the one time Facebook actually tries to do the right thing by its users is when the state gets all hot and bothered. To understand exactly what’s at stake here, take a read of an opinion-piece authored by Edward Snowden earlier today.
Excepts via The Guardian:
In the midst of the greatest computer security crisis in history, the US government, along with the governments of the UK and Australia, is attempting to undermine the only method that currently exists for reliably protecting the world’s information: encryption. Should they succeed in their quest to undermine encryption, our public infrastructure and private lives will be rendered permanently unsafe…
Donald Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, who authorised one of the earliest mass surveillance programmes without reviewing whether it was legal, is now signalling an intention to halt – or even roll back – the progress of the last six years. WhatsApp, the messaging service owned by Facebook, already uses end-to-end encryption (E2EE): in March the company announced its intention to incorporate E2EE into its other messaging apps – Facebook Messenger and Instagram – as well. Now Barr is launching a public campaign to prevent Facebook from climbing this next rung on the ladder of digital security. This began with an open letter co-signed by Barr, UK home secretary Priti Patel, Australia’s minister for home affairs and the US secretary of homeland security, demanding Facebook abandon its encryption proposals.
If Barr’s campaign is successful, the communications of billions will remain frozen in a state of permanent insecurity: users will be vulnerable by design. And those communications will be vulnerable not only to investigators in the US, UK and Australia, but also to the intelligence agencies of China, Russia and Saudi Arabia – not to mention hackers around the world…
The true explanation for why the US, UK and Australian governments want to do away with end-to-end encryption is less about public safety than it is about power: E2EE gives control to individuals and the devices they use to send, receive and encrypt communications, not to the companies and carriers that route them. This, then, would require government surveillance to become more targeted and methodical, rather than indiscriminate and universal.
The state doesn’t care about the children and it doesn’t care about you. The only thing it cares about is power and control over the citizenry. Let’s not get conned for the millionth time.