Monday, April 04, 2016

CRACKED - iPhone vs FBI

aka 'The Right to Hide Criminals Case'

"FBI cracks the locked iPhone, but legal questions remain unanswered" PBS NewsHour 3/29/2016


SUMMARY:  A conflict between tech giant Apple and the FBI over the encrypted iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters came to a moot point when Justice Department officials announced they had cracked the phone's security without Apple's help.  Gwen Ifill talks to Devlin Barrett of The Wall Street Journal and Fred Kaplan of Slate for more on how the FBI got what it wanted and what happens now.

GWEN IFILL (NewsHour):  A pitched battle between the Obama Justice Department and one of the world's biggest tech companies appeared to end abruptly this week, when the government decided to drop its insistence that Apple crack the code for an iPhone used in the San Bernardino shootings.

Apple had refused, insisting such cooperation would constitute a major breach of privacy.  The impending standoff ended yesterday when the government announced it had been able to crack the phone after all, without Apple's help.

But questions remain.

For that, we turn to Devlin Barrett, who covers the Justice Department for The Wall Street Journal, and Fred Kaplan, a columnist with Slate.  He's the author of “The Dark Territory: The Secret History of Cyber War.”

Devlin, starting with you, did one or the other of the parties in this case back away, just back up?

DEVLIN BARRETT, The Wall Street Journal:  The government backed away.  The government said — but it also got what it wanted, in a sense, because it got into the phone it had been trying to get into for months.

I think what you saw happen was that the government spent two months saying it can't get into this phone without Apple, and then at the last minute, essentially, it said, actually, someone has just come to us and told us that we can get into it without Apple, and that's what happened.

GWEN IFILL:  So, Fred Kaplan, the obvious question for so many of us is, who broke into the phone for them, and how did they find them, and had they — would they have been able to find them before without all of this legal mishmash?

FRED KAPLAN, Slate:  Well, it seems to be an Israeli cyber-security firm called Cellebrite, which consists mainly of retired professionals from the — an outfit called Unit 822, which is a — the cyber-warfare branch of the Israeli intelligence agency, sort of the Israeli NSA.

You can imagine.  Here's the FBI saying, we can't break into this phone.  Here's Apple saying, we don't want anybody to break into this phone.  This is the most secure phone out there.  You have got hundreds, maybe thousands of hackers around the world who look at this and say, hmm, let me give this a try.

And, you know, the law that the FBI was invoking to get Apple to open it themselves, which is a 1789 law called the 'All Writs Act,' states that if somebody else can do it, if you can find some way to do it without demanding that a company like Apple do it, then you have to drop your suit.

And that's why the FBI withdrew.  They had to.  They really didn't want to.  They thought that they had a good case here and were ultimately trying to test a new legal principle to accommodate for this new stronger era of encryption.

IMO:  This is a case where the actual effects privacy-rights fanatics is to allow criminals to hide.  That is just WRONG!  There is no Constitutional right to have criminals hide.

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