back to article Attorney General: We didn't need Apple to crack terrorist's iPhones – tho we still want iGiant to do it in future

The US Department of Justice is once again taking Apple to task for not cooperating with device decryption requests, even after it announced that it had retrieved information from a pair of iPhones without Cupertino's help. Attorney General Bill Barr and FBI director Christopher Wray said on Monday the Feds have been able to …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    So they went to the same firm that cracked the journalist's iPhone so that the Saudis could murder him - and now they want Apple to crack all iPhones for the Saudis?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Whatever happened to that?

      "Journalist Jamal Khashoggi was beheaded and dismembered within minutes after entering the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, an audio recording leaked to a Turkish state-run newspaper indicates...

      the recording indicated Khashoggi's fingers were severed during an interrogation and he was then beheaded and dismembered....Pompeo met with the Saudi royal family Tuesday to discuss the matter."

      If you torture somebody on a call, then its for the amusement of the people on the other end of the call.

      "President Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner has been a promoter of Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman ...recently offered the prince advice on how to handle the outrage over the slaying of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi"

      Another Trump working for a foreign government while supposedly working for the US. Just like Flynn.

      There will inevitably be Quid-Pro-Quo to pay back Jared for his help in working against US interests.

      Also, to the Texas oil field owners.... don't piss of the Saudi's demanding higher oil prices, because they are connected, and you cannot rely on the US to protect you anymore than Kashoggi could rely on Jared/Barr/ US protection. He pissed them off, he got murdered, Jared helped them cover for it. You piss them off, you might get murdered, Jared has some more work to do.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Ding ding ding

        @"Pompeo met with the Saudi royal family Tuesday to discuss the matter [Washington Post Journalist tortured and dismembered in the Saudi Consulate]"

        See what I mean Texas oil men? Pompeo working for the Saudis here....

        "...the secretary of state faced dual investigations by the department watchdog into whether [Mike Pompeo] had staffers perform personal chores and whether he looked to circumvent Congress in accelerating an arms deal with Saudi Arabia."

        It's just business. A price for your head, a price for each arm, a price for the fingers, a price for your iPhone history and your current location. Who needs checks and balances? Who needs rule of law? You understand don't you?

      2. Drew Scriver

        Re: Whatever happened to that?

        While you are possibly right regarding the details, you err in inferring that this kind of 'diplomacy' is limited to the current administration, or even that such an approach is unique to the USA.

  2. Someone Else Silver badge

    This time, Apple gets it right

    There is no such thing as a backdoor just for the good guys [...]

    That's the "adult conversation" one needs to have with the magical thinkers that populate the political Right.

    1. stepheT

      Re: This time, Apple gets it right

      And the political left

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: This time, Apple gets it right

        Left or right, it's basically anyone who isn't willing to listen to experts.

        Occasionally, though, incidents like this will throw up a surprise. In this case it was the blinkered loon Senator Lindsey Graham, who started off on the party line but then swung around against a backdoor to encryption. It was fun watching him struggle with difficult technical words and concepts as he tried to explain this to his fellow Senate committee members, and fun watching them as they realised that for the first time in years he might actually be back on Planet Earth.

        1. Someone Else Silver badge

          Re: This time, Apple gets it right

          Back on Earth? Nah...maybe in a geostationary orbit, but not quite back on Earth.

          Although tracking stations have noted that his orbit is a little to the right of where it is supposed to be....

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How exactly does the keylogger get onto the iphone, if it's not been unlocked? Is there seriously a way to install backdoors onto an iphone from the lock screen?

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      If it were a hardware device- hidden in the Lightening socket - it might be possible to log the owner's passcode by 'listening' to electrical noise. Heck, if the phone is in a case, a small bug with two microphones inside said case could determine the X Ys of a user's taps.

      If the cops had more time, then whipping the phone apart and logging data directly from the screen digitiser might be an option. I don't know how current iPhones are built.

      None of the above would require the phone's software to be compromised. These are just guesses though. This is not my area.

  4. HildyJ Silver badge

    China sends its thanks

    If a back door is ever created, China, citing reasons of national security, will demand access to it for all iPhones sold in China.

    1. Joe W Silver badge

      Re: China sends its thanks

      You surely mean: for all iPhones manufactured in or using parts manufactured in China....

      1. EnviableOne Silver badge

        Re: China sends its thanks

        so all iThings then....

  5. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge

    I don't get it. IF the FBI (and other TLA agencies) have cracked the encryption, why have a press conference to let every-man-and-his-beast know about it?

    I don't get it. What is the benefit? Bragging rights?

    1. Glen 1

      It could be that the methods used were expensive, unreliable or dependant on an exploit that is highly version dependant. Better to say "look we can crack this" than saying "We can't crack this" thus making iPhones the criminals phone of choice.

      Hell, it would be an idea to say you could crack it, even if you couldn't, just to deter ne'er do wells (and regular folk) from using a system they can't access.

      So they will keep banging on the "back door" drum in the hopes that the legislature will cave. If you can legally compel Apple to compromise their own security, the same law applies to other companies - which is ultimately the point.

      The difference in the UK, is that the gov wouldn't want pesky judges offering fig leaf oversight.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. EnviableOne Silver badge


        won't work on the new ones, but probably would on these....

    2. jake Silver badge

      Ol' Bill of Occam sez ...

      ... they are lying.

    3. Frederic Bloggs

      They probably got into it as soon as they got the necessary update from their phone cracking supplier. But the politics of the situation are about the principle of getting the back door, not whether they can manage without - and in particular - without, necessarily, having the physical device. Also it's about "not having to ask someone first". They like *do* to poke about secretly :-)

      So why announce now? Well they think this reinforces the line that this sort of thing is "difficult" - "just look how long this has taken!" etc. Pure theatre.

    4. Someone Else Silver badge

      What is the benefit? Bragging rights?

      Yes. Under direct orders from the Egomaniac-in-Chief.

  6. PhilipN

    Apple told The Register - ????

    Go on - you’re making it up.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: Apple told The Register - ????

      Strange times these... are they not?

      Note that even Fox News has come out and told people NOT to take the same anti-malarial drug as Trump as it could kill you.

      For those two things to happen really does show that the world has indeed turned upside down. All we need is a 3rd miracle and the disaster will be over... (sic)

    2. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Apple told The Register - ????

      Nah, they like to pretend half the time we don't exist, and we like to pretend they totally hate and ignore us. If it suits Apple, they'll respond. If it's us picking apart their tech or decisions, it's the silent treatment - which has never stopped us before.


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Apple told The Register - ????

        Writing as a non-American, Apple's quote here irks me. They could remove every instance of "American" from it, and just write "people" or "company" as appropriate, and it would have effectively the same meaning, but would not offend their customers in the other 90% of the world.

        The gung-ho nationalistic language used really annoys me, and seems to imply that the rest of us don't deserve the same level of privacy as Americans, when in reality privacy should be a human right for all of us.

        (I realise that the US intelligence agencies regard all of the rest of us as potential enemy aliens, even those of us who speak English and are usually friends, but, ickkkkk....)

    3. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

      Re: Apple told The Register - ????

      This must be "the new normal" everyone is talking about these days...

  7. gnasher729 Silver badge

    It’s well known that at least a former head of the NSA supports Apple in this: That creating a back door would overall be bad for US national security. (And the guy didn’t even care about other countries national security, or things like privacy, protection from scams etc. )

    All that said... As the FBI boss, if I could decrypt phones, I would keep that very, very secret because I’d want criminals and terrorists to keep using iPhones. And if I couldn’t, I’d tell the world I could, so the criminals switch to something else.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Everyone who really has something to hide should be using ROT14 (not 13, that's been broken)

      1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

        Re: Exactly.

        ROT14 with an extended alphabet - say an extra 2 glyphs?

      2. Glen 1

        Re: Exactly.

        Do it twice, just to be sure.

        1. jake Silver badge

          Re: Exactly.

          Last time I heard that one I was taking my PDP-10's SA-10 attached IBM Winchester for a spin.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > As the FBI boss, if I could decrypt phones, I would keep that very, very secret because I’d want criminals and terrorists to keep using iPhones.

      The FBI investigates corporate espionage. Stealing commercial secrets from US companies would be easier for foreign actors if there was an undisclosed bug in the iPhone.

      The USA's military power derived from its economic power. At least that is what is being taught in Westpoint these days.

      It's true that geopolitics falls outside of the FBIs remit, but they have developed a good working relationship the CIA since 9/11.

  8. jake Silver badge

    This statement:

    "The trove of information found on these phones has proven to be invaluable to this ongoing investigation and critical to the security of the American people."

    has all the earmarks of a marketing campaign ... and is probably equally truthful.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: This statement:

      I haven't seen Chris Morris's latest film The Day Shall Come yet. Apparently it's a comedy based on the farce of real-life FBI sting operations. The premise of useful idiots being cajoled into extremism by FBI agents hoping to infiltrate a nonexistent terror network sounds like classic Tom Sharpe writing about South Africa in the 80s.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not surprising, the DOJ and FBI are lazy in that they'd rather have all the work done for them while they collecting billions in funding. For example, they've failed to act on a congressional mandate to fight child exploitation (the other favorite excuse for backdoors), and instead have capitalized on distain for big tech by convincing some congress critters to draft the EARN IT Act. It piles all the responsibility for making child exploitation content go away and lets the DOJ break encryption conditioning Section 230 immunity on following DOJ "best practices".

  10. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "no thanks to Apple"

    And that's a Good Thing (TM).

    Apple is not law enforcement. If the law wants to decrypt, it pays the tech consultant the market price to do so. It does not make Apple put a backdoor in a secure encryption system.

    What's next, cars that automatically call the police when criminals are driving them ? Of course not, this is just another jab at backdooring encryption by the morons who think they can just wish it so.

    Luckily, they can't.

    1. Kientha

      Re: "no thanks to Apple"

      It's like talking to a brick wall because the key policy makers can often barely use technology let alone understand it. I'm sure most of us have had to deal with similar issues either at work or with family where they can't understand why the magic box can't just do everything they want it to!

  11. Primus Secundus Tertius

    Common law duty

    In a Common Law country there is a legal duty to help the authorities maintain such law and order as ordinary people generally support. Apple conspicuously fail in this duty.

    1. tiggity Silver badge

      Re: Common law duty

      I disagree.

      As an ordinary person I don't want a backdoor on my phone that could be accessed by any crook as it would reduce my security massively.

      If an investigation fails due to a "locked" phone then its a pretty poor investigation

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Common law duty

      My understanding is the common law duty to assist is typically for individuals and in a physical capacity.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Common law duty

      Apple are marinating the law by preventing bad actors from exploiting citizens and stealing trade secrets from American companies. Another of the FBI's jobs is to investigate corporate espionage - Apples refusal to build on back doors helps prevent corporate espionage.

  12. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Doesn't make sense

    If they are already able to crack the phones, why do they need a back door?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Doesn't make sense

      I think they can, they just end up buying Cellebrite's system for unlocking iPhones. As was the case with the San Bernardino shooting, they drag their feet and loudly complain in the media and to Congress; trying to make a case for mandatory backdoors. They seemingly have little issue with the cynical use of tragedy as a vehicle for policy objectives.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I have a sneaky suspicion that the entire statement by Barr is bluff and they haven’t been able to access the phone.

    Perhaps it’s an attempt to ween the bad guys off using iPhones so they switch to something the FBI can actually get into..

    1. Oh Matron!

      Re: Bluff?

      Dare I ask.... "Such as?"

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Murdering scumbag

    Some publications have a policy of avoiding mentioning the names of murdering terrorist scumbags (merely describing them as such or in similar terms), in order to emphasise that in committing their crimes they have lost their humanity, and, although their horrific actions may sadly not be forgotten, the erasure of their name at least gives out the very strong message to wannabes, or their equally deranged followers, that they will achieve absolutely no "glory" or infamy through their pitiful actions.

    The identity of the scumbag who committed the crime is irrelevant: the friends and families of the victims sadly will not forget, and although those investigating and dispensing justice will need to know, the rest of us need only know that a pathetic individual committed an awful crime, but their former human identity is unimportant and not deserving of repetition.

    Perhaps The Register might wish to adopt this as an editorial policy, where appropriate?

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Murdering scumbag

      Because it worked so well when Tutankhatenmun's handlers completely erased Akhenaten from history, right?

      Don't ignore it. Instead, teach why it is wrong. (Note that I'm not commenting on the rightness or wrongness of atenism vs polytheism in ancient Egypt. It's just an example.)

      "Those who forget history ..."

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Murdering scumbag

        Fair point, jake, and interesting further information about Akhenaten, I knew that his reign had been regarded by successors as an aberration, but I didn't previously know that they had tried so extensively to erase all record.

        I suppose the point I was trying to make was more applicable to the crimes of individuals, or small localised groups of people (the sort who perhaps could be dissuaded from suicide attacks if society makes it very clear that they just won't get the "glory" they seek), rather than more widespread/systematic terrorist movements (it could perhaps be argued that by the time society suffers from continual (rather than intermittent) attack from the latter, it already has a bigger problem that it needs to deal with?).

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022