In a new court brief filed this week, Apple once again makes its case that the FBI’s request to force it to unlock the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone 5c isn’t constitutional. While this isn’t surprising, it’s notable that the iPhone maker also implies that the NSA might have what it takes to decrypt iPhones for the FBI. It’s just that the Bureau seems not to have sought such assistance.
Apple makes a point of advertising the security features of its iPhone and Mac software every chance it gets. But in this brief, it is sort-of acknowledging that intelligence agencies such as the NSA could have what it takes to hack iPhones. As Wired notes, Apple did touch on the matter before, but this time, it put this argument in writing.
“The government does not deny that there may be other agencies in the government that could assist it in unlocking the phone and accessing its data; rather, it claims, without support, that it has no obligation to consult other agencies,” Apple wrote.
The company also said that FBI Director James Comey avoided answering that question when asked about it a few weeks ago at a congressional hearing.
Ironically, Apple is advising the FBI to develop iPhone-hacking capabilities of its own if it can’t do it without the help of the NSA, instead of seeking unconstitutional ways to force tech companies to assist.
As we explained in the past, the FBI has a bigger play in mind and the NSA’s assistance isn’t required. If successful against Apple, the Bureau will set a precedent that might affect similar court duels against other tech companies based in the U.S. Furthermore, the FBI might not be interested in having to defend in court evidence obtained from hacking the device.
Not to mention that the NSA probably doesn’t want to admit it can hack into iPhones – and Apple probably doesn’t want to hear about it either.