FBI lawyer refuses to say whether data extracted from San Bernardino iPhone is 'useful'

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After engaging Apple in a high-profile court battle to unlock a terror suspect's iPhone, the FBI remains mum as to whether or not data gleaned from the device is "useful" to investigators.




During an interview at Tuesday's International Association of Privacy Professionals conference in Washington, FBI lawyer James A. Baker said data extracted from an iPhone linked to San Bernardino terror suspect Syed Rizwan Farook is being applied to the agency's ongoing investigation, reports The New York Times. He was less forthcoming when asked if the phone contained useful information.

"We're still working on that, I guess is the answer," Baker said, adding, "It was worth the fight to make sure that we have turned over every rock that we can with respect to the investigation. We owe it to the victims and the families to make sure that we pursue every logical lead."

While the iPhone's contents may never be aired publicly, many are curious to find out if the government's bid to force Apple's assistance in breaking into the device was worth the effort. The Justice Department never claimed to know what was stored on Farook's iPhone, if anything, but federal prosecutors and other law enforcement officials used this uncertainty to their advantage.

In court filings and various public forums, the government manufactured an air of urgency, suggesting the target iPhone might reveal co-conspirators or other terrorist cells operating on U.S. soil. A particularly infamous amicus brief lodged early on by San Bernardino District Attorney Michael A. Ramos claimed the device might hold evidence of a "dormant cyber pathogen."

Arguments on both sides were rendered moot when an unnamed third party -- rumors point to Israeli firm Cellebrite -- helped the FBI crack, bypass or otherwise thwart Farook's passcode and extract the phone's data.

As the DOJ withdrew its motion to compel Apple's assistance, the company was not privy to any information regarding the working iPhone exploit. Apple has maintained that the mere existence of an iOS encryption workaround puts hundreds of millions of devices in danger of infiltration. Baker said that while the FBI has discussed the issue with company executives, it has "not shared the solution with Apple to date."
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 32
    Let's see.. That iPhone 5c was a work and government owned that can be tracked. Terrorists didn't bother to destroy it. Their personal phones on the other hand, the terrorists made the time to destroy it. They plotted and planned the attacks and I seriously doubt they'd use a government work phone to do it.
    edited April 2016 calipotatoleeksoupjay-tceek74anantksundaramjbdragoncornchipjony0
  • Reply 2 of 32
    quinneyquinney Posts: 2,525member
    Whether or not the information is useful is significant for the public relations battle the FBI is waging, but I think it is irrelevant with regard to the legal issues.  I would prefer that people would not fixate on the usefulness.
    radarthekatjay-tmike1anantksundaramstompyunbeliever2jony0
  • Reply 3 of 32
    jfc1138jfc1138 Posts: 3,090member
    So that dormant cyber pathogen is now loose amongst us thanks to the FBI awakening it?
    calibrakkenmacky the mackylkruppcintosanantksundaramjbdragonnolamacguyjony0daren_mitchell
  • Reply 4 of 32
    tzeshantzeshan Posts: 1,894member
    Only Congress can force FBI to tell the truth.  
  • Reply 5 of 32
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,664member
    It doesn't matter if it had good info or not. We don't want backdoors. 
    bloodstainscornchip
  • Reply 6 of 32
    tzeshan said:
    Only Congress can force FBI to tell the truth.  
    Wrong! The FBI fans lied to Congress.
    brakkensteveh
  • Reply 7 of 32
    What is there to still be worked on? If iPhone security was bypassed and data was extracted, what is there to still be working on? And, why are they talking to Apple executives? Was the extracted data encrypted and remains out of reach? Has another secret court order been issued to bar Apple to not speak more about this case?

    The DOJ/FBI chose to make this case public. Now they are choosing to go dark. Are they telling the truth or lying more to the court system and public?

    i am going with lying. 
    brian greencalimacky the mackycintosanantksundaramjbdragonbadmonkjony0
  • Reply 8 of 32
    joshajosha Posts: 901member
    It's time to put this event to rest.
    Of course they are not going to quickly say if they found anything useful.
    Of course Apple will be looking into how they broke in.

    So hopefully on we go to more useful news.
  • Reply 9 of 32
    There were already iCloud backups of the phone which had nothing of interest. Are we forgetting the US government desperate attempt at instilling fear with the baloney idea of a "dormant cyber pathogen". I think we all know perfectly well that all of this desperate posturing wasn't to obtain access to the device which likely has nothing of interest on it - instead it was to create a precedent.
    edited April 2016 jbdragonai46
  • Reply 10 of 32
    rezwitsrezwits Posts: 605member
    Dude, the FBI is just a bunch of Windows fanboys who want to destroy Apple, Inc, laters...
  • Reply 11 of 32
    chasmchasm Posts: 1,286member
    Not only would I bet good money that absolutely nothing useful was or ever will be found, the line about "We owe it to the victims and the families to make sure that we pursue every logical lead" is a deceitful sentence. The FBI *previous to all of this* cleared the two gunmen of having ANY direct involvement in any terror groups, cells, and ruled out any accomplices. So ask yourself: what are they investigating? The suspects? They're not going to be prosecuted; they're dead. "Every logical lead" on what? Good luck ever getting an answer: this is a PR campaign specifically designed to destroy civil liberties so the FBI doesn't have to do the boring legwork of finding out information the old-fashioned way. That's the bottom line, and the truth of the matter.
    brakkenstompystskai46icoco3jony0
  • Reply 12 of 32
    What phone? It was all called off because they lost the phone and they don't want to look like idiots "again" lol
  • Reply 13 of 32
    brakkenbrakken Posts: 677member
    It's their revjfc1138 said:
    So that dormant cyber pathogen is now loose amongst us thanks to the FBI awakening it?
    It's their revenge upon the world for not buying their crap story ;)
  • Reply 14 of 32
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 1,883member
    I thought FBI would have said got data off that iphone and it had useful info. It was worth while efforts. That way, people can sympathize with FBI's case. But, like history of FBI even the murder of president John F Kenedy's mystery/truth til today many things, it is a back hole.
  • Reply 15 of 32
    ceek74ceek74 Posts: 323member
    I guess the FBI can't be "compelled".  Well, except to waste tax payers' money and to be morbidly incompetent.
  • Reply 16 of 32
    why do people feel entitled to know if what was found on the phone was useful or not? Perhaps sharing that could've been part of the negotiation with Apple but, that didn't happen. You're entitled to the same level of information as any other open and on-going investigation by law enforcement. Why don't you take a trip to your local police station and ask them for all of the information they have on all of their open murder, robbery and home invasion cases and see the response you get... Apple had the choice to work with the FBI behind the scenes and set the parameters around how such a tool would be used, under what circumstances it would be used and who would hold ownership and operation of the tool but they decided to jump on a soapbox and preach against it and the worldwide impact such a tool would have in the wrong hands...Apple forced the FBI's hand and anything that happens from this point on is just as much Apple's fault as it is the FBIs. Apple was stupid for thinking they were going to beat the FBI.
    singularity
  • Reply 17 of 32
    They liked to play Candy Crush, but weren't any good at it.
    jony0
  • Reply 18 of 32
    irelandireland Posts: 17,552member
    It's completely relevant. Forcing Apple to change their ways and build software for FBI sets a dangerous precedent, so it makes no sense. Whether they find lots or nothing that conversation is meaningless.
  • Reply 19 of 32
    jmgregory1jmgregory1 Posts: 454member
    My guess is that the FBI knew, as many here have come to the same conclusion, that the work phone has nothing valuable on it, which is why it was not destroyed in the first place.  What the FBI was trying to do, was simply set precedent with this case, so that they could easily gain access for other cases.  The fact that they were able to seemingly easily get to the data, without Apple's help, should make it a moot point looking for a backdoor, when there seems to be a front door they can access data from.
    ai46
  • Reply 20 of 32
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,007member
    I believe the FBI still owes Apple and it's millions of customers the truth about whether they actually broke into the iPhone and how so Apple can work on a fix. The FBI works for the citizens of the US and not helping fix a known (if it's even real) vulnerability means it's actually working against US laws pertaining to securing computer systems. I'm sure the FBI can't be sued or forced to help Apple, which is why it really makes a lot of people mad they were trying to force Apple to create even more vulnerabilities. If Obama wants to leave office with any kind of credibility, he should force the FBI to disclose the process to Apple. He is the only one who actually has the power to do this. 
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