A rather long and thoughtful post…skip if you're in the mood for sexy hijinks! (Go, hijinks!)
I’m no legal historian. In fact, I’m no kind of historian, unless it’s an armchair one. Or, rather, computer-chair. My research amuses myself, and informs my stories, that’s all.
That said, I have musings. And sometimes, current events impinge directly on my historical sensibilities.
I write stories set in the middle ages. For a good portion of that period, liberty was dependent on how much money you could afford to pay the king or local nobleman for his 'goodwill,' or how well you fought in a ring (or again, how much money to had to hire a champion to do it for you), or how well you floated in water, or, most commonly, if the Sherriff of Nottingham was your local law-keeper (bad news for you), or some other local strong-arm was in the mood to plunder. People had very few recognized rights, and they could be compelled to do any number of things, depending on the will of the more powerful.
It was not until King Henry II that the concept of 'common law'--laws that applied to all, and could restrict the king & his agents' actions--came to be an accepted government policy. Next came Magna Carta (based on a charter of liberties from King Henry I), further restricted the government. And so on.
These were hard-fought, and hard-won victories. They were fundamental expansions of the notion of personal liberty and a curb on State's rights, & were therefore core redistributions of power.
Might did not necessarily make right anymore, at least legally.
Liberty requires strong checks on the powers of a State.
This includes surveillance powers. It also includes the power to compel private individuals (& companies) to engage in particular actions.
And that is the reason I hope Apple does (& think they should) win their 'appeal' against the FBI's current attempt to force Apple to give them backdoor access so the FBI can bruteforce open the phone of one of the San Bernardino shooters.
In short, this: There will always be crime. There will not always be liberty.
In fact, in the course of human history, liberty has been a rare and precious commodity for a citizenry against powerful, militarized State.
Be careful what powers you give your government, in a state of fear or anger, to encroach on the civil liberties of its citizens, even to "combat crime." Because next time, it's going to be your civil liberties.