Normally, the role of a reporter is to deliver the news with impartiality. But I have to admit it’s difficult for me to write this report without feeling the FBI has been taking us for a ride in its court case, where it is seeking a court to direct Apple to create a new piece of software so it can access the contents of the iPhone 5c used by the San Bernardino terrorists.
In March FBI director James Comey said, “We have engaged all parts of the US Government to find a way to access the device without Apple’s help. If we could have done this quietly and privately, we would have done it.”
Now, it has been established that sister agency, the Drug Enforcement Administration, or DEA, has been working with an Israeli firm to do exactly what they are asking Apple to do – overcome the encryption on an iPhone.
The service the DEA is using, to overcome the encryption on an iPhone 6, is called CellBrite.
It’s important to note that both the FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) insisted they had no other option but to compel Apple to assist them. The DOJ is the overarching agency within which both the FBI and DEA fall.
It’s hard to hear this latest revelation and not believe the FBI and DOJ are trying to use the courts to bypass the privacy protections software makers put in place for all citizens.
As I’ve said earlier, in my brief history of Apple versus the FBI, there has been significant rhetoric from law enforcement since iOS 8 was released. And, really, this all goes back to when strong encryption algorithms were declared free speech, and therefore freely accessible to all, in the landmark Bernstein v. US Department of Justice case from 1999.
The FBI has also said the ruling it is seeking in the San Bernardino case is narrow and only applies to that specific case. That’s hard to believe when there are over a dozen similar cases in play, such as the one in Brooklyn where a judge ruled against the FBI.
It’s said that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I disagree.
I believe you should only be allowed to your own opinion if you can support it with facts.
My opinion is the FBI has been looking for an opportunity to use the courts to weaken personal privacy through encryption and it has used a highly emotive case of domestic terrorism to garner public opinion.
It has said it is only seeking support for this one case, but has many others being played out in courts across the US.
The FBI and DOJ have said, on several occasions, that they have no other way to overcome the iPhone’s encryption. Yet a sister agency has been working with another firm to do exactly this.
The FBI has characterised its case as asking Apple to break into one iPhone. That’s not what it has been asking. It is asking a court to compel Apple to write new software and provide signing keys so it can install it.
In fact, a recent DOJ filing suggested it may compel Apple to hand over the source code for iOS. If that was granted, and it had the appropriate code signing key, it would be able to create its own versions of iOS which users could potentially be fooled into installing.
And imagine if someone was able to access and release that source code and key without the FBI’s consent? And if you think that’s highly unlikely, I put the case of Edward Snowden to you – a well-placed, patient, highly intelligent insider with the knowledge and motive to find the software and ‘liberate’ it.
What do you think?