The US FBI has unlocked the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino attackers, officials said on Monday, ending a heated legal standoff with Apple that had pitted US authorities against Silicon Valley.
Apple, backed by a broad coalition of technology giants like Google and Facebook, was fiercely opposed to assisting the US government in unlocking the iPhone on grounds it would have wide-reaching implications on digital security and privacy.
A key court hearing scheduled earlier this month to hear arguments from both sides in the sensitive case was abruptly canceled after the FBI said it no longer needed Apple’s help and had found an outside party to unlock the smartphone.
“Our decision to conclude the litigation was based solely on the fact that, with the recent assistance of a third party, we are now able to unlock that iPhone without compromising any information on the phone,” US attorney Eileen Decker said in a statement.
“We sought an order compelling Apple to help unlock the phone to fulfill a solemn commitment to the victims of the San Bernardino shooting — that we will not rest until we have fully pursued every investigative lead related to the vicious attack,” she added.
It was unclear who helped the FBI access the smartphone and what was stored on the device, but news reports have said the FBI might have sought assistance from an Israeli forensics company.
In a court filing asking that the case be dismissed, prosecutors said the US government had “successfully accessed the data stored on [Syed] Farook’s iPhone and therefore no longer requires assistance from Apple Inc.”
Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California, on Dec. 2 last year before dying in a firefight with police. Two other smartphones linked to the pair were found destroyed after the attack.
Tech companies, security experts and civil rights advocates had vowed to fight the government, saying it would set a precedent to compel companies to build backdoors into their products..
The government had fired back, insisting that Apple was not above the law and that its request for technical assistance concerned only Farook’s work phone from the San Bernardino health department.
Evan Greer, campaign director of Fight for the Future, a nonprofit that supports Apple, said Monday’s announcement was proof the government had an alternative motive in the case.
“The FBI’s credibility just hit a new low,” he said in a statement. “They repeatedly lied to the court and the public in pursuit of a dangerous precedent that would have made all of us less safe.”
“Fortunately, Internet users mobilized quickly and powerfully to educate the public about the dangers of backdoors, and together we forced the government to back down,” he added.
In a recent editorial, the Wall Street Journal also criticized the US Department of Justice’s legal battle as “reckless” and said the FBI had “fibbed by saying the Apple case is about one phone.”
FBI director James Comey said his agency only decided to back down in the court case after it found a third party that could crack the smartphone.
“You are simply wrong to assert that the FBI and the Justice Department lied about our ability to access the San Bernardino killer’s phone,” Comey said in an open letter.
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
ACADEMIC FREEDOM: One professor told her students to submit anonymized papers and not to record any online classes. Some US schools have announced similar steps Students at Oxford University specializing in the study of China are being asked to submit some papers anonymously to protect them from the possibility of retribution under the sweeping new security law introduced three months ago in Hong Kong. The anonymity ruling is to be applied in classes, and group tutorials are to be replaced by one-to-ones. Students are also to be warned that it will be viewed as a disciplinary offence if they tape classes or share them with outside groups. The Hong Kong National Security Law was imposed on June 30 by Beijing after more than a year of pro-democracy
Japan’s government yesterday urged people to seek help if they were struggling to cope, following Sunday’s death of the popular actress and Miss Sherlock star Yuko Takeuchi, 40. News of her death shocked the nation and follows other recent cases of Japanese celebrities taking their lives, with figures showing a recent rise in suicides. Takeuchi was a household name in Japan and had given birth to her second child in January. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato did not mention a particular case, but said that some people were struggling to cope during the COVID-19 pandemic. “There has been an uptick in the number
China on Thursday lashed out at the US at a high-level UN meeting over its criticism on the COVID-19 pandemic, with its envoy declaring, “Enough is enough.” Two days after US President Donald Trump used his annual address to the General Assembly to attack China’s record, US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft, also took an outraged tone — after which her Chinese counterpart showed palpable anger. “I must say, enough is enough. You have created enough troubles for the world already,” Chinese Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun (張軍) told a Security Council meeting on global governance attended through videoconference