AP, other me­dia sue FBI for de­tails on iPhone hack­ing tool

Malta Independent - - BUSINESS -

The As­so­ci­ated Press and two other news or­ga­ni­za­tions sued the FBI on Fri­day to learn who the gov­ern­ment paid and how much it spent to hack into an iPhone in its in­ves­ti­ga­tion into last year’s San Bernardino, Cal­i­for­nia, mas­sacre.

The law­suit seeks records about the FBI’s con­tract with an uniden­ti­fied ven­dor who pro­vided a tool to un­lock the phone used by Syed Rizwan Fa­rook, who with his wife killed 14 peo­ple at a hol­i­day gath­er­ing of county work­ers in De­cem­ber 2015.

Gan­nett, the par­ent com­pany of USA To­day, and Vice Me­dia LLC joined the com­plaint with the AP, seek­ing to learn more about the mys­te­ri­ous trans­ac­tion that cut short a le­gal dis­pute in which the gov­ern­ment sought to force Ap­ple Inc. to un­lock the phone.

“Un­der­stand­ing the amount that the FBI deemed ap­pro­pri­ate to spend on the tool, as well as the iden­tity and rep­u­ta­tion of the ven­dor it did busi­ness with, is es­sen­tial for the pub­lic to pro­vide ef­fec­tive over­sight of gov­ern­ment func­tions and help guard against po­ten­tial im­pro­pri­eties,” said the suit, filed in U.S. Dis­trict Court for the Dis­trict of Columbia un­der the U.S. Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act.

In re­ject­ing ear­lier re­quests to di­vulge the in­for­ma­tion, the gov­ern­ment had said re­veal­ing the records could af­fect “en­force­ment pro­ceed­ings,” but did not elab­o­rate. FBI spokesman Chris Allen de­clined to com­ment Fri­day.

The case stems from the FBI’s an­nounce­ment in March that it had pur­chased a tool to un­lock the iPhone, abort­ing the court fight with Ap­ple that had in turn trig­gered a de­bate about the proper bal­ance be­tween elec­tronic pri­vacy and na­tional se­cu­rity.

The FBI for weeks had main­tained that only Ap­ple could help it ac­cess the work-is­sued phone, which was found in a car af­ter the shoot­ing and was pro­tected by a pass­code that in­cluded se­cu­rity pro­to­cols. At the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s re­quest, a magistrate judge in Fe­bru­ary di­rected Ap­ple to cre­ate soft­ware that would by­pass se­cu­rity fea­tures on the phone so that the FBI could get into the de­vice and scour it for po­ten­tial ev­i­dence. Ap­ple con­tested the or­der, say­ing the FBI’s de­mand set a dan­ger­ous prece­dent and could un­der­cut se­cu­rity pro­tec­tions for its cus­tomers.

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