Americans should be “deeply skeptical” of government power, says FBI Director James Comey, adding that law enforcement should be able to access someone’s telephone only with a court order,
“I believe that Americans should be deeply skeptical of government power,” Comey told CBS News’ Scott Pelley in an interview for “60 Minutes” that will air on Sunday. “You cannot trust people in power.
“The Founders knew that,” he said. “That’s why they divided power among three branches, to set interest against interest.”
Comey, 53, who became FBI chief in September 2013, cautioned that courts must grant law-enforcement agencies permission to telephones if the information is deemed to be critical to a criminal case or national security.
His comments come in light of numerous leaks since last year by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealing that agency’s extensive telephone and Internet surveillance programs and cell phones introduced last month by Apple Inc. that were designed to avoid surveillance by law enforcement.
Apple’s new iOS8 operating system for its cellphones and other devices contains personal encoding software to prevent anyone outside of the phone’s owner from accessing its data. Apple will not be able to access the data, Arstechnica.com reports.
“The notion that we would market devices that would allow someone to place themselves beyond the law, troubles me a lot,” Comey said. “As a country, I don’t know why we would want to put people beyond the law.
“That is, sell cars with trunks that couldn’t ever be opened by law enforcement with a court order, or sell an apartment that could never be entered even by law enforcement,” he continued. “Would you want to live in that neighborhood? This is a similar concern.
“The notion that people have devices, again, that with court orders — based on a showing of probable cause in a case involving kidnapping or child exploitation or terrorism — we could never open that phone?” Comey asked. “My sense is that we’ve gone too far when we’ve gone there.”
Awesome. Let’s get back to checks and balances that work.