We Just Found out the Real Reason the FBI Wants a Backdoor into the iPhone

February 24, 2016   |   Jake Anderson

Jake Anderson
February 24, 2016

(ANTIMEDIA) The FBI versus Apple Inc. An unstoppable force meets an immovable object the feverish momentum of American technocracy accelerating into the cavernous Orwellian entrenchment of the surveillance state. You thought the patent wars were intense? The ‘Battle of the Backdoor’ pits one of America’s most monolithic tech conglomerates against the Department of Justice and, ultimately, the interests of the national security state. And this case is likely only the opening salvo in what will be a decades-long ideological war between tech privacy advocates and the federal government.

On its face, the case boils down to a single locked and encrypted iPhone 5S, used by radical jihadist Syed Rizwan Farook before he and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, killed 14 people in San Bernardino on December 2nd. The DOJ wants Apple to build a backdoor into the device so that it can bypass the company’s state of the art encryption apparatus and access information and evidence related to the case.

At least, that’s the premise presented to the public. As we are learning, the FBI and the federal government have a far more comprehensive end-game in mind than merely bolstering the prosecution of this one case.

Whistleblower Edward Snowden tweeted last week that “crucial details [of the case] are being obscured by officials.” Specifically, he made the following trenchant points:

Now, the Wall Street Journal has confirmed that there are actually 12 other iPhones the FBI wants to access in cases that have nothing to do with terrorism. According to an Apple lawyer, these cases are spread all across the country:Four in Illinois, three in New York, two in California, two in Ohio, and one in Massachusetts.”

With each of these cases, the FBI’s lawyers cite an 18th-century law called All Writs Act, which they say is the jurisprudence needed to force Apple to comply and bypass their built-in proprietary encryption methods. Is it any wonder the only case the public hears about is the one that involves terrorism?

While law enforcement authorities claim these 12 additional cases are evidence that encryption has become a major hindrance to investigations across the country, privacy advocates say it is, conversely, evidence that national security is not the only factor at play in the government’s desire to circumvent encryption. This is further evidenced by the fact that the government has been pressuring Apple to create iPhone backdoors since long before the San Bernardino attack.

Rather, information privacy advocates like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) say the push for bypassing encryption specifically, compelling Apple to build a backdoor operating system involves a large-scale campaign to use the threat of terror to overreach their legal authority, breaching civil liberties in the process. We saw this in the wake of 9/11, when NSA’s PRISM program conscripted Google, Microsoft, and Facebook in a covert data mining campaign to collect metadata from American citizens.

The EFF says the Apple case is part of an ongoing pattern of the state using the threat of terrorism as a Trojan horse to get backdoor access to citizens’ smartphones:

“The power to force a company to undermine security protections for its customers may seem compelling in a particular case, but this week’s order has very significant implications both for technology and the law. Not only would it require a company to create a new vulnerability potentially affecting millions of device users, the order would also create a dangerous legal precedent. The next time an intelligence agency tries to undermine consumer device security by forcing a company to develop new flaws in its own security protocols, the government will find a supportive case to cite where before there were none.”

The DOJ deployed talking heads to all the media outlets to make the specious argument that what they’re asking for doesn’t really constitute a backdoor. The fact of the matter is, they are asking for a court to mandate that Apple work for the government (which, some have argued, creates a 13th amendment violation as well as privacy concerns) in weakening their own security and creating access to a locked, encrypted device. This is a backdoor, and virtually all tech experts agree that they are dangerous.

Nate Cardozo explained on the PBS NewsHour:

“Authoritarian regimes around the world are salivating at the prospect of the FBI winning this order. If Apple creates the master key that the FBI has demanded that they create, governments around the world are going to be demanding the same access.”

Computer programming expert and Libertarian Party presidential candidate John McAfee tried to call the FBI’s bluff last week by offering to take apart the San Bernardino iPhone and help the government extract the data they want without building a backdoor. He made the rounds on major media outlets as well, warning of the dangers of complying with the Justice Department.

McAfee says the FBI is “asking every owner of an iPhone to make their phone susceptible to bad hackers and more importantly foreign enemies of the United States like China.”

Meanwhile, this week, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg offered intellectual solidarity with Apple’s CEO Tim Cook, while Bill Gates took a more moderate stance on the issue, suggesting privacy advocates were overreacting. Gates later backslid from this position and lent his support to Apple.

It’s also worth pointing out that the FBI’s own mistakes during the investigation of the San Bernardino shooting may the reason they now need Apple’s help. According to Truthdig,

“The FBI reportedly asked San Bernardino County officials to tamper with the iCloud account of one of the suspected shooters in last December’s attack, in an effort that ultimately failed — making it impossible to know if there were other ways of recovering encrypted information without taking Apple to court.”

Apple’s brand is on the line, too. Previously hailed as a data security juggernaut among smartphone manufacturers, a judicial order to build a backdoor would compromise their status in a market in which uncompromised encryption is becoming rarer by the day.

The stakes couldn’t be higher. As noted by The Pontiac Tribune, if the FBI prevails in this case, the ramifications won’t be limited to smartphones. It will set a precedent for the government legally conscripting any and every entity they desire for the purposes of citizen surveillance and metadata collection.


This article (We Just Found out the Real Reason the FBI Wants a Backdoor into the iPhone) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Jake Anderson and theAntiMedia.org. Anti-Media Radio airs weeknights at 11pm Eastern/8pm Pacific. If you spot a typo, email edits@theantimedia.org.

Author: Jake Anderson

Jake Anderson joined Anti-Media as an independent journalist in April of 2015. His topics of interest include social justice, science, corporatocracy, and dystopian science fiction. He currently resides in Escondido, California.

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43 Comments

  1. to even outright claim that "radical jihadist Syed Rizwan Farook before he and his wide Tashfeen Malik killed 14 people in San Bernardino on December 2nd" and ignore that many witnesses saw 3 white men in fatuges fleeing and nbc new in its live footage repeated up to 4 time that the ATF was doing the shooting before getting cut off …blantenly ignore major elments in this situation

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  3. Malik Irfan you are truly my hero…I'm fucking broke…can you lend me a tenner?

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  4. Joseph you may very well be right, but this article is about the Apple case, not false flag theories.

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  5. Thank You Mr. Blanchard.
    I think Snowden made it pretty clear what a "back door" is not needed for. And then…
    "Now, the Wall Street Journal has confirmed that there are actually 12 other iPhones the FBI wants to access in cases that have nothing to do with terrorism. According to an Apple lawyer, these cases are spread all across the country: “Four in Illinois, three in New York, two in California, two in Ohio, and one in Massachusetts.” Put the icing on the cake.

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  6. No government is asking for Apple to be forcibly commissioned into creating new software that enables backdoor.

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  7. David Agosta What they're asking for is impossible for Apple to pull off without a backdoor, so they cannot "comply."

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  8. The hero Snowden, sitting in Moscow , has spoken Capt fing obvious he is. All I hear is that these 2 murderers rights out weigh every one elses. The funniest part, the social media generation is worried about privacy, seriously?

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  9. Jake Anderson Yes, "asking," as in "Apple's reasonable technical assistance MAY incliude…" That's more than a little different then "forcibly commissioned," is it not?

    What's happening here is that this multi-billion dollar multinational corporation (let's not forget that) wants to use the "undue burden" clause in existing case law to get paid to unhide data that it has hidden and it gets to reap huge marketing benefits by claiming that "recommend" means "forced" and "may" means "will."

    This is mostly corporate hype.

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  10. Doesn't anyone who used to work at #apple want to make a few bucks sharing those secrets? If I was the @FBI I'd put out a major reward to anyone who figures out how to back door it.

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  11. David Agosta You may be right about corporate hype. But I think the larger issue here is the precedent the government wants to establish that they can use national security as an excuse to strip any and all civil liberties. It's been going on since 2001 and enough is enough. When every tech professional comes out saying backdoors are critically dangerous, we should probably listen to them. Just because the FBI fucked up doing their job doesn't mean they get bailed out by the DOJ legally mandating Apple to weaken their security, especially when the data they supposedly want can be ascertained without backdoors. This is not relegated to this one case. Gov wants sweeping access to encrypted devices and this is just the first step toward establishing a legal precedent.

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  12. Jake Anderson The precedent has existed since 1977 – US v NY Telephone.Technology companies have, for almost thirty years, been required to assist in cirminal investigations. That prinicple of law is the reason you can use a debit card on the internet and not have your checking account emptied. I don't know if the 'national security" claim is valid or part of the hype. The reality is that a crime was committed, there is a criminal trial in June and both the defendant and we the people have a right to that evidence. Technology cannot be used to conceal evidence and creators of technology that does must make that evidence available. The order very specificaly and repeatedly refers to only this device and the owner of the device is dead and has no privacy rights. The notion that this will 'trickle-down' from the existence of a technology to the potential uses of that technology to the assumption that that technology will be used in a bad way could have applied to telescopes and tape recorders and a miillion othe things and is…well….really good marketing for Apple. They have no leg to stand on legally (except for getting paid to do what they have to do) and this will sell lots of iPhones and iPads

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  13. I sometimes feel the need to surf lesbian midget porn while downloading 5 finger death punch songs,without the fbi watching my i-phone activity 🙂

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  14. David Agosta it was offered that they could have the information they wanted. John McGafee was going to get it for them from the phone when he took it apart. But that's not what they want the backdoor for. This was certainly planned a looong time ago when they planned the bombing. The phone is a government issued phone. They surely already know what's on it. We're just being fed the excuse demanding this change. Why, it's their Golden Ticket to unlimited access of Apple user's information! So, I agree with Jake….. Don't Do It Apple!

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  15. Debbie Mullins "They surely already know what's on it." is conjecture but even if true, would not be admissible in court. I can do slippery slope arguments too. If technology can be used to conceal this evidence then it can be used to consela evidence of child-trafficking and arns smuggling.,, and I quesstion the defintion of 'backdoor" as it applies to this order. It's an emotionally-chraged colloquial buzzword.

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  16. Listen up Apple fans. Worried about security on your iPhone and law enforcement snooping? Just use a 10 digit alphanumeric passcode and it will not be cracked in your lifetime no matter how many tries they have. If you have the newer iPhone with fingerprint sensor it won't matter how long it takes you to type it in because you will really only need to use your passcode when you restart or upgrade iOS.

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  17. Jake Anderson STOP BEING STUPID ON PURPOSE… your natural talents show you are plenty stupid without trying so hard.

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  18. The NSA probably has techies who can crack this thing. I'm sure they've defeated tougher encryption than this.

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  21. Listen up, Apple fans. The NSA and FBI know where you are 24 hours a day if your phone is with you, they know every phone call made and length of call, and they know every web page you've accessed and every app you use and for how long. The only thing protected by your iPhone's encryption are pictures and that's only if they are not uploaded to iCloud, unless you're in the habit of creating text documents on your iPhone and not syncing those to iCloud as well…

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  22. You honestly believe criminals are going to stop using encryption? It's open source and so is Linux.

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  23. Jake Anderson Not much of a critical thinker are you. If the FBI is using that drill they were having, that hoax in SB as a reason – it is a valid point -and does have everything to do with what is happening with Apple – and in false flags people actually die – like 9/11. in a HOAX, they do not and there are no costly long drawn out law suits

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  24. Debbie Mullins why did they have government issued phones? Did they work for the government?

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  25. Amanda CG The worked for a county health department – which is, of course, another reason this is ridiculous. "The 'evil govenment dosen't have a right to 'hack' a phone!!!!" "Um…'the evil government' owns the phone." DUH.

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  26. Ben Scarsella There are those of us smart enough to use WeChat / Weixin or any other 100% foreign owned messenging program for all our conversations with encryption over a VPN. WeChat / Weixin is owned by Tencent Holdings which as a 100% Chinese owned company that never will or ever has to comply with anything any buttstained US governemnt agency wants. No I don't care what I do that China sees because I am not there. I'm here and the FBI or any other agency can kiss my a……………………………s………………………………s………………………………. they will NEVER gain access.

    They have to first get past my passcode, which is impossible because if anything happens to me there is someone that has my passcode and instructions to remote wipe my phone within 48 hours of not being able to contact me. Really won't matter anyway because I have the 10 passcode autowipe feature enable. Even if by some unforseen miracle they actually get in my phone they have no way of knowing my WeChat user name is (it's in a foreign language) and no way to guess my password either. I also maintain 3 distinct WeChat accounts only one of which is publically available and has nothing of interest to them.

    As for iCloud? You do realize you can pick and choose what does and does not get stored there if you even use it right?

    Heck even if you don't want to go that deep with your conversation security just use apples iMessage for communication. It uses point to point encryption that is unbreakable and if you paid any attention to recent history the Justice Department already lost that battle. It has to be iMessage, not regular SMS and BOTH parties must be using it.

    As for your comment about the only protected by the iPhone encryption is pictures? Put down the bong son and do some real research. You have to get past the encryption to get in the phone so everything is protected. Just how many times did the doctor drop you on your head at birth?

    The bottom line is that you are only as safe as you are smart and knowledgeable. If you lack either then you are simply too stupid to be doing stupid stuff and you will get caught easily enough.

    Lastly: The really paranoid that really have stuff to hide ONLY use burner phones that get tossed regularly and they never use them from home base and they never buy them from the same location twice.

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  27. Any such software will require an Apple signature key to install on an iThing. That's not something that a hacker can just whip up out of thin air.

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  28. Denise England I believe in false flags. I don't think it's necessary in this case to stigmatize the issue before assessing what the FBI is trying to do. False flags will never be a mainstream discussion that affects public policy, so to approach the argument from that point of view is a non-starter. I wish this weren't the situation, but unfortunately we live in a corrupt empire. The game right now as I see it is meeting them on their terms and showing the danger of giving up personal liberties. They will always own the narrative because they control the media.

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  29. David Agosta the way I see it you kind of derailed the argument for the DOJ. They already have the information that need, they were offered help to retrieve said information. Seems to me that complies with the 1977 precedent, but that wasn't enough. They need a way in themselves, which seems to me, goes beyond the requirement of "assisting" with a criminal case. I'm sure encryption is already used for the things you mentioned, but that doesn't mean we should disregard the law, which you say Apple needs to follow, to stop those breaking the law. nobody is concealing evidence. If that were the case, it would be an open-shut trial, and they truly wouldn't have a leg to stand on. They are simply not compromising a technology they created with the intent to be uncompromisable. The credit card thing is a mandate for encryption not against it. It doesn't have anything to do with company's being forced to comply with info, rather, it's them being forced to hide info. Regardless of hype or shady marketing, its dangerous to not only allow, but create access to information because they have some more weight to throw around. They already have access to all forms of communication via technology. Obtaining information isn't the responsibility of some company because a criminal used their technology, and not only that but they were given said technology by the person trying to obtain the info anyways.

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  30. Tony Hess I'm not sure that they have all the information or that Apple offered to help because it those two things are true, why did this case proceed? The order does only apply to this one phone and does leave it up to Apple how they do that so there is some disconnect somewhere. "Obtaining information isn't the responsibility of some company because a criminal used their technology" Actually, it is and that makes sense because the federal government's unlimited resources would allow them to do it on their own and we certainly don't want that.

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  31. Didn't this happen with the previous iphone version?

    Makes you think the FBI and Apple are working together in this to produce the illusion that iPhones are secure.

    That would be a win-win for the two:
    Apple creates the impression that their products are so secure the FBI cannot hack them (how's that for advertisement?) and the FBI can use this to 'legalize' what it's been doing for years illegally.

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  32. How do dead people have rights? Will cracking this phone's encryption bring any of their victims back?

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  33. David Agosta The case is proceeding because the government wants more power. Shocker.

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  34. Jake Anderson That "power" is what allows you to type your debit card into a website and not wake up to find that your checking account is empty. The "power" to investigate crime is one of the few necesassary functions of a government and if the government wanted to, it could do this without Apple's help.

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  35. David Agosta this is the third time you've used that as an example and it doesn't have any more relevance now than it did before. It's not the governments power that allow us to use credit cards on the Internet, It's encryption that allows that, which is what the government wants Apple to compromise. The reason the case is proceeding is so they can get into highly encrypted devices legally so it can be used in court. If they used their "unlimited power" then it would be illegal and not useful. They're trying to work around laws that they create and support, but because they can't use their powers they way they want they have to find another way, ergo this whole mess. The information may be crucial to this particular case, but it's a dangerous precedent. When considering all the angles that I can perceive there is more bad things that this can lead to rather than good. The government doesn't have unlimited power, and that is a good thing. This would lead them towards more power, which is not what is needed. They have already proved to be untrustworthy time and time again. If there were such an institution, that was worthy of our trust, this case wouldn't even exist.

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  36. Tony Hess You're missing the point. What allows us to use credit cards on the 'net is the ability of law enforcement to investigate crimes in which technological devices are used and the obligation of technolgy companies to assist
    . That's 30 year old law. Have you read the Court Order? It is nothing to do with encyption. That's Apple's corporate marketing team's spin. The reason that this case is proceeding is that there is a criminal trial in June, The defendant in that trial has a right to any exculpatory evidence, the people have a right to any incriminating evidence and the FBI has a responsibility to gather that evidence, The right of the accused and right of the people do exist and the FBI has no alternative but to proceed. Paranoid assumptions are irrelevant. The phone and, therefore the data on it, belongs to the people of the (I think it's San Bernadino) County but even if that were not true the user is dead and had no privacy rights. Apple does not have a toe to stand on in court. They cannot win this – and they shouldn't. No matter what you or I think of the government, your choice is to transfer that big spooky power to a multinational corporation. So, if they can't win – fight it because it's great marketing – and that's all this is. It's like ten free super-bowl commercials for Apple.

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