F.B.I. Error Locked San Bernardino Attacker’s iPhone
WASHINGTON — The head of the F.B.I. acknowledged on Tuesday that his agency lost a chance to capture data from the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino attackers when it ordered that his password to the online storage service iCloud be reset shortly after the rampage.“There was a mistake made in the 24 hours after the attack,” James B. Comey Jr., the director of the F.B.I., told lawmakers at a hearing on the government’s attempt to force Apple to help “unlock” the iPhone.
F.B.I. personnel apparently believed that by resetting the iCloud password, they could get access to information stored on the iPhone. Instead, the change had the opposite effect — locking them out and eliminating other means of getting in.
The iPhone used by Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the assailants in the Dec. 2 attack in which 14 people were killed, is at the center of a fierce legal and political fight over the balance between national security and consumer privacy. Many lawmakers at Tuesday’s hearing of the House Judiciary Committee seemed torn over where to draw the line.
“The big question for our country is how much privacy are we going to give up in the name of security,” Representative Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, told Mr. Comey. “And there’s no easy answer to that.”
While some lawmakers voiced support for Apple’s privacy concerns, others attacked the company’s position, saying it threatened to deprive the authorities of evidence in critical cases involving newer iPhones.
“We’re going to create evidence-free zones?” asked Representative Trey Gowdy, a South Carolina Republican who once served as a federal prosecutor. “Am I missing something?”
“How the hell you can’t access a phone, I just find baffling,” he said.
So the government blew a chance to access the phone by incompetence.
IF they had asked Apple before “How can we access a phone without without getting locked out?” I think Apple would have no grounds for refusing to answer.