Bill Barr: Apple Is Holding Up This Investigation. Apple: You Waited A Month To Tell Us You Needed More Help

from the STFU-and-GTFO-Bill dept

Last week, the DOJ’s counsel sent a letter to Apple asking for its assistance cracking open two phones recovered from the shooter at the Pensacola Naval Air Base. Apple replied it had already provided assistance by giving the FBI everything it could recover from the shooter’s Apple accounts. The company also made it clear it would not attempt to break the encryption on the phones.

This sounded like a warning shot from the DOJ — one issued before the commencement of litigation. No formal request for assistance has been made in court yet, but the head of the DOJ has decided to apply additional pressure. Attorney General William Barr’s view appears to be that if the FBI has a warrant, Apple has to let it come in. Otherwise, bad things will happen. He also accused Apple of not being helpful enough.

“This situation perfectly illustrates why it is critical that the public be able to get access to digital evidence,” Mr. Barr said, calling on technology companies to find a solution and complaining that Apple had provided no “substantive assistance.”

Going beyond that, Barr said lives are on the line and tech companies unwilling to punch holes in the encryption they use to protect their customers are just adding to the body count.

“We don’t want to get into a world where we have to spend months and even years exhausting efforts when lives are in the balance,” he said. “We should be able to get in when we have a warrant that establishes that criminal activity is underway.”

When time is of the essence, the FBI is only weeks away.

We responded to each request promptly, often within hours, sharing information with FBI offices in Jacksonville, Pensacola and New York. The queries resulted in many gigabytes of information that we turned over to investigators. In every instance, we responded with all of the information that we had.

The FBI only notified us on January 6th that they needed additional assistance — a month after the attack occurred. Only then did we learn about the existence of a second iPhone associated with the investigation and the FBI’s inability to access either iPhone. It was not until January 8th that we received a subpoena for information related to the second iPhone, which we responded to within hours. Early outreach is critical to accessing information and finding additional options.

That’s from Apple’s statement on the matter, as reported by Scott Lucas for Buzzfeed. AG Barr is complaining about months and years, and it’s the FBI that waited until a month after the shooting to even inform Apple there was a second iPhone involved.

It could be the DOJ knew Apple would reject its advances. It could also be the FBI was exploring other options during the last 30 days. Even if this is the case, it’s completely disingenuous for Bill Barr to give the impression Apple has been uncooperative and is holding up this investigation. Apple helped immediately and turned over “many gigabytes” of data and communications to the FBI.

Just because the feds can’t unlock the phones does not mean Apple isn’t helping. It just won’t do the one thing the FBI wants it to do: weaken a security measure that keeps millions of iPhone users, who’ve never committed a crime, safe. Apple’s statement drives this point home.

We have always maintained there is no such thing as a backdoor just for the good guys. Backdoors can also be exploited by those who threaten our national security and the data security of our customers. Today, law enforcement has access to more data than ever before in history, so Americans do not have to choose between weakening encryption and solving investigations. We feel strongly encryption is vital to protecting our country and our users’ data.

If Barr is serious about the safety and security of the nation he’s sworn to protect, he’ll leave encryption the fuck alone. But Barr isn’t serious about this. He wants the DOJ to get what he wants, no matter how much collateral damage it causes. Sacrificing security for minimal gains in law enforcement efficiency is the name of the game. Unfortunately, it’s a game we all lose if the DOJ gets its way.

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Comments on “Bill Barr: Apple Is Holding Up This Investigation. Apple: You Waited A Month To Tell Us You Needed More Help”

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Re: Anybody have an idea why this is so?

You generally don’t get to be the nation’s top cop without having some authoritarian tendencies.

That said, I think you’re making a mistake in suggesting that Barr is typical. He’s exceptionally bad; he’s so bad he makes Jeff Sessions look honorable and above-board by comparison. He doesn’t maintain even the barest pretense of independence from the president, and let’s not forget that before the Trump Administration, his biggest contribution as AG was convincing George HW Bush to pardon the criminals responsible for Iran-Contra.


Re: Anybody have an idea why this is so?

Pretty much anyone with power acts like this. Trump notwithstanding, Barr is as much a career civil servant as his predecessors were/are.

The nature of people is that their job is the most important, they are the most trustworthy, and you should give them more power and resources to do that job. No matter how much power and resources they already have. Limits you’ve placed on them – like warrant requirements – are totally capping their effectiveness (even though that’s a tradeoff we’re aware of and chose to make) and need to be eliminated because they’ll never abuse the trust you place in them.

Scary Devil Monasterysays:

Re: Anybody have an idea why this is so?

"Or is it that there’s something in the coffee at DOJ?"

There’s a certain type of "law enforcement" culture Hoover established which still lives today. It’s basically "the law is OUR tool, nobody else’s".

Barr lives in a world where, for all intents and purposes, he’s the lieutenant of the biggest gang on the block and anyone who doesn’t instantly cave to the word of the capos needs to be made an example of. It’s that simple.

He’s basically the jumped-up version of the corrupt policeman who knows, in his heart of hearts, that his word is law…and who enjoys that power trip. When his self-importance is questioned he reacts badly.

That One Guysays:

How to shoot your own argument in one simple step

DOJ to the press: ‘Apple is being entirely unreasonable by refusing to break their encryption! Lives could be on the line, and time is of the essence!’

DOJ internally, Agent 1: ‘So… should we maybe get this phone to Apple, see if they can do anything with it?’

Agent 2: ‘Eh, no rush, we’ll get around to it eventually.’


Way back decades ago I had a great discussion on and with some other engineers about the encryption issue.

First, there is a metadata warrant. There are foreign governments with general warrants that they use globally as part of their normal foreign policy. The US has been implied to have a warrant on those warrants as a part of normal counterespionage operations. So APT666 or whatever is a hostile foreign government and the US has a warrant for whatever APT666 was looking for or at as a normal part of governmental counterespionage operations. :cough: china :cough:

Second, if you want secure encryption, you can’t have Turing complete, network capable computers. Most modern computers are Turing complete so once there is a small error discovered it can generally be exploited to get access to the entire machine. Most people don’t want non-Turing complete computers because the additional security comes at a cost of greatly reduced functionality.

Third, foreign governments torture and hack to gain access to data, even inside the United States so the encryption isn’t the only exploitable weakness. :cough: china-origin-terrorism with lasers :cough:

Finally, if you want a secure encryption protocol to transfer data between your friends, just have an electrical or computer engineer write a script that you can run on computers that have never been hooked up to a network then transfer the files to another internet connected computer. If they are at all competent, they should be able to give you a working algorithm that can only be cracked by serving a warrant directly to you.



just have an electrical or computer engineer write a script that you can run on computers that have never been hooked up to a network

Don’t put too much faith in air gapping. You read about Stuxnet, right? Given that was accomplished with national level resources, but presumably if you’re putting that much effort into security, it’s because you’re a target. Second, having some guy write you a script is a great way to get lousy security, because there will be something he or she forgets. Probably many things. Use industry standard vetted security tools.


Even if..

There was no compression, no encryption, no this or that on a phone. Even if there wasnt a password that can Lock the phone.

There are so many holes in this tech, that its not encouraging.

The CIA/FBI wants to scan the Whole internet to find ‘Things’, and information, and soforth. But you would think they would be scanning Cellphone data already. And even if its happening already, maybe they just dont want us to know they are.

The Amounts of Data sent back and forth is Huge. esp. with all the Chatty-Kathie’s, sitting on the phones all day long. Even if you Chipped every phone in the country to create a Legal backdoor, Tech would figure it out and some crook would love it, to resell phones. Why cant they do it now, without Apples help?


Question about warrants from a non-lawyer

Excuse any ignorance in this question. I thought that if you were issued a warrant that you had to comply (if you could). So either Apple can decrypt the phone or they can’t. If they can’t then the answer is no we can’t help. If they can decrypt then are the not obligated to under the warrant? Or is it a case of, yes we can decrypt the phone but we are going to fight the warrant because of (insert all the valid reasons we don’t want the government to have access to encrypted data).

That One Guysays:

A mix of 'it's complicated' and tantrum throwing

Courts have gone both ways regarding forced decryption regarding personal devices, and in cases like this where the company doesn’t have a decryption key the issue moves into the legality/constitutionality of forcing a company to create specific code in order to create that key, which might get into first amendment territory.

Primarily though it’s the DOJ throwing a tantrum because currently they can’t just use a warrant to access anything they want due to Apple employing working encryption, and trying to change that by employing the disgusting method of using phones previously owned by terrorists/murderers to try to make Apple’s refusal look bad enough that the company will crack(the fact that the suspect is dead and can’t object in court probably factors in as well).

Nathan Fsays:

Re: Question about warrants from a non-lawyer

If Apple did the encryption right then their answer would be "No, we do not have the means to decrypt this." If the law of the land changes and they are forced to put in backd.. "government mandated golden keys" then their answer would have to be "ok, here it is"


Re: Re: Question about warrants from a non-lawyer

Apple does not have a key to decrypt any given phone. They could create it but today such a key or other means does not exist.

The DoJ should just fork over another quarter million dollars to a black hat middle eastern outfit to unlock the data for them, as they did before. There’s nothing I like better than our tax dollars going to waste. /s


Re: Re: Re: Question about warrants from a non-lawyer

It’s been hypothesized that Apple could create and sign a software update containing a backdoor?for example, by removing password-guess throttling?and then install it on the phone in question. The problem is that, if they did, suddenly every government would be sending these requests to Apple. And if that backdoored firmware leaked it would be trouble for everyone, including people with US-government-issued cellphones.


Re: Question about warrants from a non-lawyer

As I understand it, as a general rule, a warrant cannot force a third party to provide anything it doesn?t have, even if the party has the ability to create it. So if Apple already had a tool that could decrypt the iPhone, then a warrant could compel Apple to turn it over to law enforcement. However, if the tool doesn?t already exist or Apple doesn?t have possession of it, it?s unlikely that a warrant could legally and constitutionally force Apple to create such a tool for law enforcement to use. It?s not exactly a settled question, though.


Re: Question about warrants from a non-lawyer

You do have to comply – if you can.

You don’t have to spend millions (or even hundreds of thousands) to develop new tools that don’t currently exist in order to comply.

You don’t have to stop designing products that don’t allow you access either.

Like, I can be ordered to open a safe in my office. But if the safe has had the lock melted and has to be cut open – they can’t expect me to go rent a cutting torch to cut into it.


Re: Question about warrants from a non-lawyer

A warrant forces you to hand over evidence you already have in your possession. Apple does not have a unencrypted copy of the encrypted data on the phone, but they could possibly create a custom version of the operating system that could then be loaded onto the phone and extract the unencrypted data.

Apples problem is that the DOJ wants to be able to use a warrant to force someone to actively assist the police even if it is against that person’s interest. If the DOJ wins this, it would set a very, very dangerous precedent that goes far beyond the encryption battle.

Scary Devil Monasterysays:

Re: Question about warrants from a non-lawyer

"Excuse any ignorance in this question. I thought that if you were issued a warrant that you had to comply (if you could). So either Apple can decrypt the phone or they can’t."

Apple (and any other computing device/OS manufacturer) makes secure phones. By that I mean that Apple can not itself hack any individual phone easily. It’s not just a question of "unlocking it" and current status quo is that breaking the encryption on an iPhone is "easier" for a dedicated company specialized in hard-breaking or circumventing encryption completely than it is for Apple to do the same. Even on their own devices.

What Apple could do, in theory is launch a software update – which would take effect on every iPhone in the world, and contained a backdoor allowing anyone with the proper certificate to unlock any phone, anywhere.

Barr is at war with Apple because they refuse to push such a software update and provide the government with a master lkey which can be used to open every iPhone in existence (a key which will then be stolen by China, Russia, and organized crime within weeks).

THAT is what this debacle is about. Barr is essentially saying "Unless you fuck every iPhone owner in the world, you are BAD guys!".

You might recognize his rhetoric from old-style soviet commissars and books such as "1984".


?This situation perfectly illustrates why it is critical that the public be able to get access to digital evidence,? Mr. Barr said

Uhm, Bill? How?

Because your stance here is that unlocking the phone might lead to evidence for the shooters motivations.

  1. They’re kinda irrelevant, aren’t they? Like, you have all the evidence needed to convict the dude for shooting the place up. Oh, and he’s dead already.
  2. We know his motivations. Jihad. Its not complicated. This dude isn’t the Unabomber and we need his manifesto to understand why he did what he did. He was a radicalized Muslim who used the trust he was granted as an opportunity to strike at a a soft target.
  3. Even if he wasn’t. Even if he has some crazy, obscure motive, who cares? He shot a bunch of people. THAT IS THE CRIME, not why he did it.
That Anonymous Cowardsays:

When you don’t want to take the blame for being fsckups… blame someone else.

Perhaps they were to busy looking at the other Saudi nationals they sent home for having jihadist material & child porn in their possession. Can someone explain why the hunt for child porn lead Judges to throw out all the rules to make the NIT legal, yet they found men with child porn in their possession who were given a friendly slap on the ass and sent home, where others merely accused of maybe seeing child porn once are subject to no knock raids?

We had someone pull of a terrorist attack, killing citizens…
and then it took another 5 weeks to check on the other similarly situated individuals???



"If Barr is serious about the safety and security of the nation he’s sworn to protect, he’ll leave encryption the fuck alone."

The contrapositive of that statement is that, "If Bill Barr doesn’t leave encryption the fuck alone, then he isn’t serious about the safety and security of the nation he’s sworn to protect."

Since he’s clearly NOT leaving encryption the fuck alone, the latter form more clearly reveals Barr’s disingenuousness and treasonous malfeasance.


Re: Re: Contraposition

As a gifted student in an exclusive, private, elementary school over a half-century ago, I was taught first grade mathematics on the basis of Set Theory (New Math). Over the intervening half-century and change, I have recognized that not everyone was granted my gifts or educational privileges. Indeed, I see many who have never been exposed to Set Theory or Formal Logic at all. I choose to share my benefits with others instead of being a surly dimwit who dully insults strangers due his vague resentment that he wasn’t able to learn set theory until third grade.

Scary Devil Monasterysays:

Re: Re: Contraposition

"Do you want a gold star for your silly third grade argument?"

1+1 = 2 is learned earlier than that, and is still going to be an infallible argument and conclusion when you’ve got a PhD under your belt.

A "silly" third grade argument would be when someone makes a counterpoint based on how pissy he’s feeling. Case example – your own comment.


If Barr is serious about the safety and security of the nation he’s sworn to protect, he’ll leave encryption the fuck alone.

I like disagreeing, so Tim I actually disagree with this. If Barr was serious about his oaths, then he wouldn’t be leaving encryption alone, he’d be pushing for strong encryption everywhere. That makes people safer.

Weakening encryption doesn’t assure the chance of stopping a criminal act, it doesn’t even give a hard increase in odds of catching an act after the fact. However it will make sensitive information about people more accessible to criminals. And people are for better or worse (I think mostly worse, but that’s my opinion) sticking more and more personal and sensitive information in digital, online repositories.


Yeah i saw this press conference. The other fun thing besides waiting a month to subpoena any cloud data belonging to the account connected with the second phone, then making noises about Apple in attemot to gain public sympathy for another probable bullshit lawsuit and anti-encryption sentiment, while clearly not bothering to have the phone hacked by the usual suspects, is that they plainly announced how the violent person wasn’t connected to anyone nor inspired by any particular organization. Barr then says how very important it is to get into this phone, because reasons.

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