ISSN 2330-717X

FBI Director Backtracks, Admits Apple iPhone Litigation Will Be Precedent – OpEd


Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director James Comey seems to have quickly reversed course to admit the obvious — that the February 16 magistrate judge’s order for Apple to help the US government breach an iPhone’s security, including encryption, is as much about establishing precedent for more court orders as it is about the government trying to obtain information connected to one phone related to the December 2 mass murder in San Bernardino, California.

On Sunday, Comey issued a statement that started with this declaration: “The San Bernardino litigation isn’t about trying to set a precedent or send any kind of message.” Then, on Thursday, Comey backtracked from this assurance by testifying before the US House Intelligence Committee that the order and appeals arising from the order “will be instructive for other courts.”

Comey told the committee:

Whatever the judge’s decision is in California — and I’m sure it will be appealed, no matter how it ends up — will be instructive for other courts. And there may well be other cases that involve the same kind of phone and the same operating system. What the experts have told me is the combination — and here’s where I’m going to get well out of my depth — of the 5c [iPhone] and this particular operating system is sufficiently unusual that it’s unlikely to be a trailblazer because of technology being the limiting principle. But, sure, a decision by a judge — the judge weighing a decision in Brooklyn right now — all those decisions will guide how other courts handle similar requests.

Notably, Comey is still unwilling to admit the true breadth of the privacy invasion the court order portends. The reasoning for requiring Apple to breach protections related to one iPhone would just as well support requiring the same privacy-stripping action to be taken by any company regarding any of such company’s phones, computers, or other devices, no mattering what operating systems the devices may use. Will Comey soon fess up to a larger plan?

This article was published by RonPaul Institute.

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One thought on “FBI Director Backtracks, Admits Apple iPhone Litigation Will Be Precedent – OpEd

  • February 26, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    Two factors are involved: 1) the FBI is stingy…it doesn’t want to keep shelling out hefty finances to PAY hackers to crack the codes, which is what they have been doing for some time now. A court order is the quick and easy solution, so they went for it. 2) They need more brainpower. Hiring college kids to crack foreign codes is problematical…too big a task, too risky too. So the FBI was forced to go to the only source of highpowered hackers at their disposal, corporate tech. All this is due to the fact that the FBI does Federal crime investigation work. The FBI is not NSA, or CIA, with deep black budget pockets, able to generate their own secret court orders on grounds of “national security,” whatever that may be. Besides, the FBI is holding pretty rigidly to a separate polity than those other alphabet soups, – as the continuing Hillary Clinton email investigation indicates. So, the FBI is doing this on its own, with a “policeman” mentality, perhaps not quite realizing some of the legal issues involved.


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