Counterterrorism expert says FBI isn’t being honest about iPhone hacking

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Your iPhone will always need to be recharged everyday.
The FBI isn't really trying to unlock the San Bernardino terrorist's iPhone.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

The guy that warned George Bush about an imminent al-Qaida attack before 9/11 is taking Apple’s side in the company’s fight against the FBI over whether it can be compelled to break into the San Bernardino terrorist’s iPhone.

Richard Clarke, who served as the senior counterterrorism official in the US for nine years, sat down for an interview this morning regarding encryption and the FBI’s efforts to hack the iPhone. Despite FBI Director James Comey’s insistence that the FBI has tried everything, Clarke says all it would take to hack the device is a call to Fort Meade.

“If I were in the job now, I would have simply told the FBI to call Fort Meade, the headquarters of the National Security Agency, and NSA would have solved this problem for him,” Clarke told NPR’s David Green on Morning Edition Monday. “They’re not as interested in solving this problem as they are in getting a legal precedent.”

This is not the first time Director Comey has been accused of trying to set a legal precedent for forcing Apple to weaken security on iOS. Apple’s top lawyer Bruce Sewell argued the same thing before the House Judiciary committee earlier this year, while CEO Tim Cook has made numerous public statement on why the FBI’s demands put all citizens at risk.

The FBI has insisted that it has no means to hack the iPhone 5c in question and that is only requesting help for one device. Apple has been asked to create a new version of iOS that would make it easier for the FBI to guess the terrorist’s passcode without the device auto-deleting its memory after too many failed attempts. Congress grilled Comey during his committee appearance about whether the agency has exhausted all its resources first. Clarke claims they’re not even trying to unlock it.

“You really have to understand that the FBI director is exaggerating the need for this and is trying to build it up as an emotional case, organizing the families of the victims and all of that,” Clarke said. “It’s Jim Comey, and the attorney general is letting him get away with it. Every expert I know believes that NSA could crack this phone. They want the precedent that the government can compel a computer device manufacturer to allow the government in.”

Listen to Clarke’s full five minute interview below:

Deals of the Day

  • Finally, this sounds like the truth about what the FBI really wants: a legal precedent for forcing tech companies to open up their data on request. The real problem with what the FBI wants is that they want Apple to open a hole in the security of the iPhone — a hole that can be hacked by criminals, foreign governments and any government agency that thinks you may be up to something. All your “private” information, including your banking info, health info, credit card info, passwords and other sensitive stuff will be open for inspection by anyone who can crack the code. It will mean a tidal wave of identity and credit card theft.

    About a year ago Apple was criticized about iOS not being secure enough with personal information, yet now the FBI in its shortsightedness and zero understanding of technology, wants to destroy the security of ALL phone users personal and private information. This reminds me of the anti-gun lobbyists who want to ban all guns, as if making owning a gun illegal will stop criminals from having and using them. Note to Congress: Criminals are notorious for not abiding by the laws (that’s why they’re called criminals). If Apple makes a hole in iOS security, it WILL be found and exploited by criminals, foreign governments and our government. There will be no way to stop it, regardless of what Comey or others are trying to convince us of.