The story about the terrorist with a phone raises lots of questions.

The most obvious question, of course, is which terrorist with what phone?

That’s valid since it seems there’s a steady supply of Muslim terrorists who murder. In this instance the terrorist in question is the Saudi Air Force cadet who was training with the U.S. military in Florida.

This is the guy who went on a rampage and murdered three while wounding eight in a shooting spree at the naval air station in Pensacola.

You may have read last week that Attorney General Bill Barr asked Apple to unlock two phones he owned. He said the Justice Department needed the company’s help for the investigation.

And he said a bit more.

Attorney General Barr charged that Apple had not given any ‘substantive assistance’ to the government in their investigation. He said Apple’s refusal to help put American lives at risk.

Apple disagrees. They claim they have helped – even if they refused to unlock the phones.

This is not the first time Apple would not unlock a terrorist’s phone. In 2015 Apple defied a court order and would not unlock a phone owned by one of the Muslims who murdered 14 people in San Bernardino.

And this raises two more questions, the first about the government.

If the government can’t crack an iPhone, just how good are they at this espionage stuff anyhow?

We spend hundreds of billions on intelligence, the FBI, the CIA and scads of other outfits nobody ever hears about. They have the fanciest satellites connected to the costliest computers all backed by the best minds in the world.

Yet with all these spies, networks and fancy gizmos – they can’t get into an iPhone 5?

Critics say the government is lying. They charge that what the government really wants is a way to access every iPhone anytime, anyplace, anyhow. Civil libertarians say that if the government got that kind of access, they would abuse it and trample your Constitutional protections.

That makes some sense.

If the Justice Department and the FBI are willing to do what they did to President Trump, whether it was fabricating evidence, lying to a court, leaking secret information and a myriad of other crimes: Do you really believe they would honor your privacy?

Besides these same critics say the technology to unlock the phone is readily available. In fact, that’s what the FBI did in the case of San Bernardino murders.

They hired a hacker.

The second question is for Apple.

Oh sure, we get it that the Apple marketing department wants us to believe their only allegiance is to their customers. Yapping to customers about ‘privacy’ makes for great TV commercials – especially at a time when Amazon, Google, Twitter and their ilk are selling your data.

But if Apple is so dedicated to their customers; if Apple is all about protecting privacy; how come do they kowtow to the Chinese government?

The most recent example was in October during the protests in Hong Kong. Apple removed the app ‘HKmap.live’ from it App Store. The timing is telling. The computer company removed the app after state media criticized Apple for allowing the app to be downloaded. The government charged Apple with aiding ‘rioters.’

It is true that the app did help the protesters. It allowed them to track the location of police. This is valuable information to somebody who believes in freedom – but would rather not have his head beat soft.

Protesters were understandably enraged that Apple would choose the side of the evil, murdering, despicable Chinese government.

And it’s not the first time that Apple sided with the dictatorship.

It previously censored news accessible through iPhones, deleted hundreds of other apps and even removed an emoji for the Taiwan flag – all at the behest of the Chinese government.

So the company that clucks and cackles about privacy in the United States doesn't give much thought to it in China.

Now that’s a TV commercial you won’t be seeing anytime soon.

DAN HAMMES is publisher of the Gazette Record.

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