There is no difference between how Apple is handling Roger Stone's or the San Bernardino s...

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 8
Once again, social media is ablaze with accusations that Roger Stone and the San Bernardino shooters are being treated differently by Apple in regards to iCloud data -- but in the real world, there is no difference between how the iCloud data turnover was handled by Apple. AppleInsider breaks it down.

Roger Stone, following his appearance in federal court in Washington D.C.
Roger Stone, following his appearance in federal court in Washington D.C.


In the summer of 2018, the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller was preparing for trial against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. It was widely reported in June of that year, that Manafort had made a monumental blunder in regard to operational security. While communicating with potential witnesses via WhatsApp, Manafort had inadvertently backed up the communications, unencrypted, to his iCloud account.

Investigators obtained a warrant to access that account and uncovered evidence that Manafort had tampered with witnesses. This led to additional charges, to which Manafort ultimately pled guilty. The ex-campaign manager, who later breached his cooperation agreement, is now looking at significant prison time.

However, the iCloud side of the Manafort case caused a talking point to emerge, that Apple was guilty of a double standard. But, the problem with that assumption is that Apple treats all search warrants the same, regardless of who they are for.

The San Bernardino Standard

The argument went that Apple had refused to create a backdoor for the iPhone in the case of the one of the San Bernardino shooters following the December 2015 shooting. Yet, they were perfectly willing to easily hand over Manafort's iCloud data. Why protect the privacy of terrorists, when they won't do it for everybody?

More advanced versions of the theory, including one pushed on Fox News, stated that Robert Mueller and Tim Cook must be in cahoots against Donald Trump, since Mueller once worked for a law firm that represented Apple. That Fox segment happened to air the same August evening in which Cook was meeting with President Trump himself, as Trump's New Jersey golf course. The argument was always very clearly false, while betraying a misunderstanding of how iCloud and encryption technologies work.

Law enforcement obtaining a warrant for iCloud data is completely unremarkable. It is spelled out for users that Apple can and will surrender everything that they have in the Terms of Service to which every iCloud user agrees.

Data from Stone, Manafort, and the San Bernardino shooters were all provided to law enforcement after Apple was served by the warrant. None of the three were singled out or treated unfairly.

The San Bernardino case, on the other hand, had an additional twist. In an entirely different legal motion, the courts decided that the U.S. government request to bypass Apple's own security on hardware was reasonable, and ordered Apple to do so. This second order is a completely different one, not a search warrant, and unrelated to iCloud data.

So now the same theories have been resurrected, in the case of Roger Stone.

The Stone Indictment

Roger Stone is a longtime political operative who was officially part of Trump's campaign in its early stages in 2015, and continued to informally advise Trump for the next couple of years. He was arrested January 25 and indicted on seven counts, including lying to Congress, obstruction of justice and witness tampering, all in connection with the Mueller probe.

According to CNN, the FBI obtained warrants to search multiple residences of Stone's, while also seizing a large cache of electronic devices. As cited by CNN was a court document filed by the special counsel that stated the evidence collected from Stone includes discovery and rifling through data that is "voluminous and complex."

Data cited as gathered by investigators includes "multiple hard drives containing several terabytes of information consisting of, among other things, FBI case reports, search warrant applications and results (e.g., Apple iCloud accounts and email accounts), bank and financial records, and the contents of numerous physical devices (e.g., cellular phones, computers, and hard drives). The communications contained in the iCloud accounts, email accounts, and physical devices span several years."

No passwords were requested. Nothing has been unlocked. All of this data was all obtained properly, through search warrants, exactly like it was in the San Bernardino case, and all will be shared with Stone's legal team through standard discovery. In addition, that evidence was all obtained after Stone's arrest, and wasn't some kind of pre-arrest extra-judicial tap that Apple cooperated with.

The original indictment cites earlier access to Stone's communications, including the implication that Mueller had obtained evidence from WhatsApp messages. A Quartz analysis speculated either that Stone had made the same blunder as Manafort, or perhaps that one of the people with whom Stone had communicated had given up the conversations to prosecutors.

Enter "The Deep State"

The iCloud angle in relation to Stone's devices went mostly unremarked upon in the media in the first two weeks after Stone's arrest. But on Thursday, several websites began pushing the familiar Stone/iCloud/San Bernardino talking point, some of them citing AppleInsider's Apple Crime Blotter column from last Sunday, which led with an item about the Stone evidence.

"Apple Gives Deep State Access To Roger Stone's iCloud Account, After Refusing To Violate Privacy of San Bernardino Terrorists," The Gateway Pundit's headline said. "What exactly was Apple threatened with by Robert Mueller and the Office of the Special Counsel for them to abandon their firm stance against turning over user data and access to federal investigators?," Gateway Pundit went on to ask.

While Fox News and other more mainstream outlets on the right sat this one out, The Drudge Report pushed the Gateway story, using the much less sensationalistic headline "Apple Turns Over Roger Stone's iCloud to Special Counsel" -- but still pushing the same half-told story, conflating the iCloud search warrant, with the unlock demand.

There are countless more social media hot takes in a similar vein, and all of them are bereft of the whole story.

Stone speaks

Even Stone, who has been giving frequent media interviews since his indictment, has shared the talking point himself.

"It's rather incredible that Apple refuses to turn over the password for the Pulse nightclub killer or the San Bernardino mass murderer in order to protect their privacy rights but is more than happy to turn over my password to Robert Mueller," Stone said in an interview with "Coburn" of The Spectator newspaper in the U.K.

"Nothing on my iCloud shows any evidence of Russian collusion, WikiLeaks collaboration or any evidence that I knew about the source or content of either allegedly hacked or allegedly stolen emails," Stone continued. "They will however find many excellent pictures of my Nixon tattoo."

Stone continues to be short on facts with his statements. The Pulse nightclub killer used a Samsung phone. And, law enforcement has not pursued an unlock like it did in the San Bernardino case.

In the San Bernardino case, the shooter was already dead and there was no privacy to protect. Apple's anti-backdoor stance has more to do with not wanting to give law enforcement the ability to casually break the encryption of any of the physical devices that it provides, for any user. Law enforcement claims that any backdoor it could be given would remain a secret, but how it broke into the San Bernardino shooter's phone was kept away from prying eyes for about two weeks before it got out.

Furthermore, as with Stone's former business partner Manafort, the data was obtained through standard, routine, and completely legal channels. Rather than taken by a "deep state," it was obtained by prosecutors and shared with the defendant's attorneys, just like evidence in every other criminal trial.

What comes next

Paul Manafort was convicted, in part, on evidence obtained via his iCloud, and there's a chance Roger Stone will be as well. No one quite knows how the Mueller probe will turn out, but it's very clear that there's no Deep State plot to illicitly steal the iCloud data of Trump advisers.

AppleInsider isn't taking a stance for or against the Mueller investigation, or for or against President Trump in this regard. However, these are the facts behind what happened with Stone's iCloud warrant, and with the San Bernardino shooter's iCloud data collection and follow-on order. Conflating the two for a talking point and saying that there is a double-standard is irresponsible, and contrary to the facts of the matter.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 40
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,343administrator
    Again, we are not interested in your political manifestos, victory dances, or approval or disapproval of the Manafort hearings. You know the rules.
    beowulfschmidtMisterKitnapoleon_phoneapartracerhomie3king editor the gratebluefire1lostkiwiwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 40
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,007member
    Can you create a list of how data is stored on iOS devices, Macs, and iCloud depending on how each are set up? It would be helpful for all users, as well as media people, law enforcement and politicians. 
    edited February 8 lostkiwiwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 40
    Ditto what Rob53 said.
    I would like a refresher course on iCloud backups.  I believe mine is encrypted.  Remember leakgate of celebrities a few years ago. I wonder why someone in the public eye (Stone) would not completely encrypt their Apple devices; especially the iCloud backup.  
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 40
    But should there have been a difference? Drawing an absolute moral equivalency between all crimes (White color crime equaling mass murder in your example case), only makes Apple (and AppleInsider) appear to be a pandering partisan corporation. What next, handing information over to the government for parking tickets? So much for thinking different. 
  • Reply 5 of 40
    debohun said:
    But should there have been a difference?
    Yes. 
    GeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 40
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,343administrator
    debohun said:
    But should there have been a difference? Drawing an absolute moral equivalency between all crimes (White color crime equaling mass murder in your example case), only makes Apple (and AppleInsider) appear to be a pandering partisan corporation. What next, handing information over to the government for parking tickets? So much for thinking different. 
    I have no idea how to even parse this. Apple gets served with a search warrant, they hand over the data that they have.

    if the government gets a search warrant for a parking ticket, then they’ll hand over the data. A search warrant is a search warrant, and it literally does not matter to Apple what it is about.

    The facts of of the matter are above. You don’t have to like them.
    edited February 8 mwhiteMplsPracerhomie3baconstangStrangeDayslostkiwiGeorgeBMacslow n easyted13urahara
  • Reply 7 of 40
    debohun said:
    But should there have been a difference? Drawing an absolute moral equivalency between all crimes (White color crime equaling mass murder in your example case), only makes Apple (and AppleInsider) appear to be a pandering partisan corporation. What next, handing information over to the government for parking tickets? So much for thinking different. 
    I'm guessing you only read the headline?
    space2001MplsPracerhomie3baconstangStrangeDayslostkiwiGeorgeBMacmacxpressslow n easyted13
  • Reply 8 of 40
    There is major distinction between the San Bernardino and Stone cases. In the San Bernardino case, the FBI also wanted Apple to provide a backdoor into the shooter’s iPhone. 

    The government can legally obtain a warrant to search your iCloud account (stored on Apple’s servers) however, even with a legally obtained warrant Apple will NOT provide the contents of the device nor will they provide a backdoor.

    Since data, such as iMessages and iCloud mail go through Apple’s servers the government can usually get their hands on what they need anyway. All perfectly legal...
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 40
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,343administrator
    karmadave said:
    There is major distinction between the San Bernardino and Stone cases. In the San Bernardino case, the FBI also wanted Apple to provide a backdoor into the shooter’s iPhone. 

    The government can legally obtain a warrant to search your iCloud account (stored on Apple’s servers) however, even with a legally obtained warrant Apple will NOT provide the contents of the device nor will they provide a backdoor.

    Since data, such as iMessages and iCloud mail go through Apple’s servers the government can usually get their hands on what they need anyway. All perfectly legal...
    Right. I guess I'm not sure what you're saying that's different in the article?
    edited February 8 watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 40
    Agreed. I see no double standard. And for people freaking out politically, I would take a breath. All the indictments in the Stone case involve things that happened after the election. I'm not saying I agree with the reach of the investigation, I'm just saying the probe wouldn't be able to get away with inventing evidence. lol.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 40
    debohun said:
    But should there have been a difference? Drawing an absolute moral equivalency between all crimes (White color crime equaling mass murder in your example case), only makes Apple (and AppleInsider) appear to be a pandering partisan corporation. What next, handing information over to the government for parking tickets? So much for thinking different. 
    This isn't about what Apple thinks it should disclose, e.g. based on the seriousness of alleged criminal acts. It's about what Apple is required to disclose pursuant to subpoenas, court orders, or warrants.

    Whether or not Apple wants to (or thinks it's appropriate to) disclose certain kinds of information, it is required by law to do so when certain conditions are met - e.g., when a court order (based, e.g., on "reasonable grounds to believe...") is issued.

    That said, Apple does say that it reviews requests for information and rejects them when it believes they, e.g., aren't legally valid or are overly broad. But that doesn't mean it gets to reject valid information requests because it doesn't think the alleged related crimes are serious enough.
    edited February 8 baconstangwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 40
    karmadave said:
    There is major distinction between the San Bernardino and Stone cases. In the San Bernardino case, the FBI also wanted Apple to provide a backdoor into the shooter’s iPhone. 

    The government can legally obtain a warrant to search your iCloud account (stored on Apple’s servers) however, even with a legally obtained warrant Apple will NOT provide the contents of the device nor will they provide a backdoor.

    Since data, such as iMessages and iCloud mail go through Apple’s servers the government can usually get their hands on what they need anyway. All perfectly legal...
    Since iMessages are end-to-end encrypted can Apple really provide access to them if I don’t have an iCloud backup?
    lostkiwiwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 40

    debohun said:
    But should there have been a difference? Drawing an absolute moral equivalency between all crimes (White color crime equaling mass murder in your example case), only makes Apple (and AppleInsider) appear to be a pandering partisan corporation. What next, handing information over to the government for parking tickets? So much for thinking different. 
    I have no idea how to even parse this. Apple gets served with a search warrant, they hand over the data that they have.

    if the government gets a search warrant for a parking ticket, then they’ll hand over the data. A search warrant is a search warrant, and it literally does not matter to Apple what it is about.

    The facts of of the matter are above. You don’t have to like them.
    To be clear, it isn't just pursuant to search warrants that Apple turns over information to government actors. It's required by law to turn over some kinds of information pursuant to, e.g, a court order issued in accordance with 18 USC §2703(d), which employs a lower standard than is generally required for a warrant.

    Apple turns over some kinds of information pursuant to subpoenas, some additional kinds pursuant to the kind of court order I just referred to, and some other kinds only pursuant to warrants. Generally speaking, personal content requires a warrant. But records - e.g., about transactions or when messages were sent or when logins happened - don't.
    baconstangwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 40
    karmadave said:
    There is major distinction between the San Bernardino and Stone cases. In the San Bernardino case, the FBI also wanted Apple to provide a backdoor into the shooter’s iPhone. 

    The government can legally obtain a warrant to search your iCloud account (stored on Apple’s servers) however, even with a legally obtained warrant Apple will NOT provide the contents of the device nor will they provide a backdoor.

    Since data, such as iMessages and iCloud mail go through Apple’s servers the government can usually get their hands on what they need anyway. All perfectly legal...
    Since iMessages are end-to-end encrypted can Apple really provide access to them if I don’t have an iCloud backup?
    No. It can't provide the contents of such messages. 

    But it will provide iMessage capability query logs pursuant to an 18 USC §2703(d) court order.
    baconstangwatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 40
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,343administrator
    carnegie said:

    debohun said:
    But should there have been a difference? Drawing an absolute moral equivalency between all crimes (White color crime equaling mass murder in your example case), only makes Apple (and AppleInsider) appear to be a pandering partisan corporation. What next, handing information over to the government for parking tickets? So much for thinking different. 
    I have no idea how to even parse this. Apple gets served with a search warrant, they hand over the data that they have.

    if the government gets a search warrant for a parking ticket, then they’ll hand over the data. A search warrant is a search warrant, and it literally does not matter to Apple what it is about.

    The facts of of the matter are above. You don’t have to like them.
    To be clear, it isn't just pursuant to search warrants that Apple turns over information to government actors. It's required by law to turn over some kinds of information pursuant to, e.g, a court order issued in accordance with 18 USC §2703(d), which employs a lower standard than is generally required for a warrant.

    Apple turns over some kinds of information pursuant to subpoenas, some additional kinds pursuant to the kind of court order I just referred to, and some other kinds only pursuant to warrants. Generally speaking, personal content requires a warrant. But records - e.g., about transactions or when messages were sent or when logins happened - don't.
    Sure, but that's not what we're talking about with Stone. I appreciate the extra context though!
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 40
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,619member
    We really need some decent hardware rumours or heaven forbid actual releases so there is less of this political shit.

    Edit: removed the rant about the ignorance of history of idiots peddling socialism.
    edited February 8 king editor the gratewatto_cobra
  • Reply 17 of 40
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 1,213member
    Was the court's order even possible? Even assuming Apple created a backdoor in iOS, the San Bernardino suspect's phone would have had to be updated, which you can't do without unlocking it.

    Many people see what they want to see, but I see nothing wrong with either of these cases.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 40
    carnegie said:
    karmadave said:
    There is major distinction between the San Bernardino and Stone cases. In the San Bernardino case, the FBI also wanted Apple to provide a backdoor into the shooter’s iPhone. 

    The government can legally obtain a warrant to search your iCloud account (stored on Apple’s servers) however, even with a legally obtained warrant Apple will NOT provide the contents of the device nor will they provide a backdoor.

    Since data, such as iMessages and iCloud mail go through Apple’s servers the government can usually get their hands on what they need anyway. All perfectly legal...
    Since iMessages are end-to-end encrypted can Apple really provide access to them if I don’t have an iCloud backup?
    No. It can't provide the contents of such messages. 

    But it will provide iMessage capability query logs pursuant to an 18 USC §2703(d) court order.

    If you have selected to back up iMessages to iCloud, then Apple can provide the contents. What do you think happens when you get a new iPhone and do a restore from an iCloud backup? All your iMessages get restored as well.

    If you're really concerned about security you wouldn't back anything up to iCloud and do local encrypted backups to your computer via iTunes. Just be aware that if you lose the password for your encrypted backup you lose your data. Apple can't recover an encrypted iTunes backup.

    For me I have just about everything set to backup to iCloud. The convenience of having a continuous and up-to-date backup (plus having items shared between devices) far outweighs my worries that the police or other agency are going to ever need to read my iMessages.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 40
    carnegie said:
    karmadave said:
    There is major distinction between the San Bernardino and Stone cases. In the San Bernardino case, the FBI also wanted Apple to provide a backdoor into the shooter’s iPhone. 

    The government can legally obtain a warrant to search your iCloud account (stored on Apple’s servers) however, even with a legally obtained warrant Apple will NOT provide the contents of the device nor will they provide a backdoor.

    Since data, such as iMessages and iCloud mail go through Apple’s servers the government can usually get their hands on what they need anyway. All perfectly legal...
    Since iMessages are end-to-end encrypted can Apple really provide access to them if I don’t have an iCloud backup?
    No. It can't provide the contents of such messages. 

    But it will provide iMessage capability query logs pursuant to an 18 USC §2703(d) court order.

    If you have selected to back up iMessages to iCloud, then Apple can provide the contents. What do you think happens when you get a new iPhone and do a restore from an iCloud backup? All your iMessages get restored as well.

    If you're really concerned about security you wouldn't back anything up to iCloud and do local encrypted backups to your computer via iTunes. Just be aware that if you lose the password for your encrypted backup you lose your data. Apple can't recover an encrypted iTunes backup.

    For me I have just about everything set to backup to iCloud. The convenience of having a continuous and up-to-date backup (plus having items shared between devices) far outweighs my worries that the police or other agency are going to ever need to read my iMessages.
    I'm aware. The post I responded to asked about situations where there isn't an iCloud backup.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 20 of 40
    We have legal systems to preserve civilization for a reason. Disturbing that those who are in charge of defending said legal system are (sometimes) also the ones that will do anything to circumvent it. 
    baconstangGeorgeBMacwatto_cobra
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