FBI Director 'Not Trying to Set Precedent' With iPhone Unlock Demand

FBI Director James ComeyFBI Director James Comey has written an editorial to respond to concerns that the agency's demands of Apple in the ongoing San Bernardino shooter case undermine privacy rights and threaten future security efforts.

"The San Bernardino litigation isn't about trying to set a precedent or send any kind of message," Comey said in an op-ed piece that appeared on the Lawfare blog late Sunday. "It is about the victims and justice. Fourteen people were slaughtered and many more had their lives and bodies ruined. We owe them a thorough and professional investigation under law."

The editorial comes after Apple CEO Tim Cook vehemently opposed the FBI's demand that the company helps break into the iPhone of one of the shooters, claiming that the order undermined decades of security advancements designed to protect customers. "Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices," Cook wrote in a letter last week.

Comey rejects that claim in the article and states that "the particular legal issue is actually quite narrow. The relief we seek is limited and its value increasingly obsolete because the technology continues to evolve."

We simply want the chance, with a search warrant, to try to guess the terrorist's passcode without the phone essentially self-destructing and without it taking a decade to guess correctly. That's it. We don't want to break anyone's encryption or set a master key loose on the land.

Tellingly however, Comey goes on to say that the case highlights how such "awesome new technology" creates "serious tension" between security and privacy, which should be resolved by the public at large:

That tension should not be resolved by corporations that sell stuff for a living. It also should not be resolved by the FBI, which investigates for a living. It should be resolved by the American people deciding how we want to govern ourselves in a world we have never seen before.

The editorial follows confirmation by the FBI that it worked with San Bernardino County government officials to reset the iCloud account password on an iPhone belonging to suspected terrorist Syed Farook, and is the latest development in the ongoing dispute between Apple and the FBI that dominated technology headlines last week.

Google, Facebook, and Twitter publicly backed Apple's stance on the issue, and some campaigners rallied to support the company, while U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump and some San Bernardino victims have sided with the FBI. Apple has until February 26 to file its first legal arguments against the court order.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Top Rated Comments

sshambles Avatar
71 months ago
Score: 31 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jsmith189 Avatar
71 months ago
"We don't want to break anyone's encryption or set a master key loose on the land."

well unfortunately, to "have that chance", that's essentially what you're going to be doing, James.
Score: 27 Votes (Like | Disagree)
KnighsTalker Avatar
71 months ago


Like Yoda said, "Do or do not, there is no try." What they are trying to do will set a precedent! Sign the petition! https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/apple-privacy-petition
Score: 26 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Chatter Avatar
71 months ago
I understand his spin but by definition, doing it once is setting a precedent right?
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
inkswamp Avatar
71 months ago
"It is about the victims and justice."

If I hear this line of reasoning again, I'm going to @#$%& scream.

I don't doubt that Comey has the victims in mind when he makes this case, but the bottom line is that you CANNOT trample basic rights and privacy to achieve that end. Comey needs to do his job with the tools he has (You know, as an IT professional, having special versions of iOS and OS X would make my job easier too but I somehow manage to get by.) Crimes and terrorism were successfully investigated and stopped before iOS ever existed. Hacking iOS isn't some magic key to world peace. We don't need to crack a terrorist's phone to keep people safe.
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
hybroid Avatar
71 months ago
We've watched enough movies to know this is PR BS.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

iPhone 13 Always On Feature

iPhone 13 to Bring Over a Major Feature From the Apple Watch

Wednesday July 28, 2021 2:21 am PDT by
Apple's upcoming iPhone 13 lineup will feature an always-on display akin to the Apple Watch Series 5 and Series 6, according to recent reports. In his weekly Power On newsletter, Bloomberg journalist Mark Gurman, who often reveals accurate insights into Apple's plans, said that the iPhone 13 may feature an Apple Watch-inspired always-on mode. The Apple Watch Series 5 and Apple Watch...
REC ASA CODE2016 20160601 205816 2745

Elon Musk Reportedly Demanded to Become Apple CEO as Part of Potential Tesla Acquisition [Update: Musk Denies]

Friday July 30, 2021 9:04 am PDT by
Tesla CEO Elon Musk reportedly once demanded that he be made Apple CEO in a brief discussion of a potential acquisition with Apple's current CEO, Tim Cook. The claim comes in a new book titled "Power Play: Tesla, Elon Musk and the Bet of the Century," as reviewed by The Los Angeles Times. According to the book, during a 2016 phone call between Musk and Cook that touched on the possibility of ...
duracell battery bitter coating

Apple Says Don't Buy AirTag Replacement Batteries With Bitter Coating

Wednesday July 28, 2021 11:08 am PDT by
Since AirTags were just released earlier this year and are expected to have a year-long battery life, it may be some time yet before AirTag users need a replacement battery, but when the time comes for a refresh, Apple is warning customers not to buy batteries with a bitter coating. AirTags use coin-shaped CR2032 batteries, which happen to be a size that's easy to swallow. Some battery...
nothing ear 1 buds 1

Nothing 'Ear (1)' True Wireless Earbuds Launch to Take on AirPods Pro With ANC and Unusual Design for $99

Tuesday July 27, 2021 7:57 am PDT by
Nothing, a new brand from OnePlus founder Carl Pei, has today officially launched the "Ear (1)" true wireless earbuds after months of anticipation around the company's AirPods Pro rival. The Ear (1) features an in-ear design, Active Noise Cancelation, Bluetooth 5.2, IPX4 water resistance, and a charging case with Qi-compatible wireless charging and a USB-C port. Fast pairing is supported on...
General Apps Messages

Android iMessage Competitor Puts Pressure on Apple

Friday July 30, 2021 3:15 am PDT by
Google and the three major U.S. carriers, including Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile, will all support a new communications protocol on Android smartphones starting in 2022, a move that puts pressure on Apple to adopt a new cross-platform messaging standard and may present a challenge to iMessage. Verizon recently announced that it is planning to adopt Messages by Google as its default messaging...
Apple Leak Feature

Apple Demands Leaker Reveals Sources Under Threat of Being Reported to Police

Wednesday July 28, 2021 6:53 am PDT by
Apple has sent a cease and desist letter to a leaker based in China as part of its continuing attempts to curtail leaks of unreleased products, according to Vice. A Chinese citizen who shared images of stolen Apple prototypes on social media was sent a warning letter from Fangda Partners, Apple's law firm in China, on June 18, 2021. An extract from the letter read:You have disclosed without ...
apple rtp land

Apple Preparing to Occupy 200,000 Square Feet of Temporary Space Ahead of New $1 Billion North Carolina Campus

Thursday July 29, 2021 9:14 am PDT by
Back in April, Apple announced a $430 billion investment over the next five years to create more than 20,000 new jobs as the company continues to expand. One significant piece of that plan is a new engineering and research center in North Carolina where Apple will be investing over $1 billion and hiring at least 3,000 employees. Assemblage of seven properties in Research Triangle Park owned by ...
iOS 15 General Feature Purple

Everything New in iOS 15 Beta 4: Safari Tweaks, MagSafe Battery Pack Support, Notification Updates and More

Tuesday July 27, 2021 11:47 am PDT by
Apple today released the fourth betas of iOS 15 and iPadOS 15, introducing additional refinements to the new features that are coming in the software updates. In these betas, Apple has introduced changes for Safari, Notifications, Focus mode, and more. Safari Updates Apple is continuing to refine the design of Safari on the iPhone, and in iOS 15, there are tweaks to improve usability. ...
new m1 chip

Tim Cook on Apple Deciding to Manufacture Components: 'We Ask Ourselves If We Can Do Something Better'

Tuesday July 27, 2021 3:04 pm PDT by
During today's earnings call for the third fiscal quarter of 2021 (second calendar quarter), Apple CEO Tim Cook was asked how Apple decides what components to purchase and what components to develop, and Cook said that Apple asks if it can be done better. We ask ourselves if we can do something better. If we can deliver a better product. If we can buy something in the market and it's great...
a15 chip

iPhone 13 and Redesigned MacBook Pro Chip Production Hit With Gas Contamination

Friday July 30, 2021 5:44 am PDT by
The most important TSMC factory that manufactures Apple's chips destined for next-generation iPhone and Mac models has been hit by a gas contamination, according to Nikkei Asia. The factory, known as "Fab 18," is TSMC's most advanced chipmaking facility. TSMC is Apple's sole chip supplier, making all of the processors used in every Apple device with a custom silicon chip. Industry...