Dan Gilmore / Feb. 22, 2016

FBI Had a Way to Circumvent Farook’s Passcode

The government bungled its initial attempts to access the cell phone.

Amidst the FBI’s demands that Apple create software to break the security the tech company engineered into the iPhone, the underreported fact is that the government bungled its initial attempts to access the cell phone the San Bernardino County Health Department gave to eventual terrorist Syed Farook. The first mistake was the county didn’t set up the phone so that it had administrative access over the device. If it had taken that preemptive step, investigators could have easily gathered everything the phone could provide.

The second mistake was hours after the shooting when San Bernardino, working with the FBI, reset the phone’s iCloud password, allowing investigators to see the data the phone was automatically backing up to a remote location on Apple’s servers. Problem was, the last time the phone updated to iCloud was on Oct. 19 — weeks before the Dec. 2 shooting. There was information still on the phone. Investigators could have teased that information from the phone by turning on the phone’s automatic updates, going to a location frequented by Farook and the device would have automatically sent information to iCloud. Voilà! With the recent information in the cloud, then investigators could have reset Farook’s iCloud password. Instead, the government is trying to force Apple to destroy the security protocols it has built into its current devices because of a series of government mistakes.

“Do we have freedom of speech, or freedom to speak only what law-enforcement can monitor?” wrote National Review’s Andrew McCarthy. “Does the Fourth Amendment guarantee freedom from unreasonable searches, or afford only whatever expectation of privacy the government, not the society, decides is reasonable — and cabined by what the government is technologically capable of searching?” What the FBI misses is that our rights are given by the Creator, not an incompetent mid-level bureaucrat.

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