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“Stance Not Grounded In Principle”: Apple Unlocked iPhones For The Feds 70 Times Before

Apple CEO Tim Cook declared on Wednesday that his company wouldn’t comply with a government search warrant to unlock an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino killers, a significant escalation in a long-running debate between technology companies and the government over access to people’s electronically-stored private information.

But in a similar case in New York last year, Apple acknowledged that it could extract such data if it wanted to. And according to prosecutors in that case, Apple has unlocked phones for authorities at least 70 times since 2008. (Apple doesn’t dispute this figure.)

In other words, Apple’s stance in the San Bernardino case may not be quite the principled defense that Cook claims it is. In fact, it may have as much to do with public relations as it does with warding off what Cook called “an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers.”

For its part, the government’s public position isn’t clear cut, either. U.S. officials insist that they cannot get past a security feature on the shooter’s iPhone that locks out anyone who doesn’t know its unique password—which even Apple doesn’t have. But in that New York case, a government attorney acknowledged that one U.S. law enforcement agency has already developed the technology to crack at least some iPhones, without the assistance from Apple that officials are demanding now.

The facts in the New York case, which involve a self-confessed methamphetamine dealer and not a notorious terrorist, tend to undermine some of the core claims being made by both Apple and the government in a dispute with profound implications for privacy and criminal investigations beyond the San Bernardino case.

In New York, as in California, Apple is refusing to bypass the passcode feature now found on many iPhones.

But in a legal brief, Apple acknowledged that the phone in the meth case was running version 7 of the iPhone operating system, which means the company can access it. “For these devices, Apple has the technical ability to extract certain categories of unencrypted data from a passcode locked iOS device,” the company said in a court brief.

Whether the extraction would be successful depended on whether the phone was “in good working order,” Apple said, noting that the company hadn’t inspected the phone yet. But as a general matter, yes, Apple could crack the iPhone for the government. And, two technical experts told The Daily Beast, the company could do so with the phone used by deceased San Bernardino shooter, Syed Rizwan Farook, a model 5C. It was running version 9 of the operating system.

Still, Apple argued in the New York case, it shouldn’t have to, because “forcing Apple to extract data… absent clear legal authority to do so, could threaten the trust between Apple and its customers and substantially tarnish the Apple brand,” the company said, putting forth an argument that didn’t explain why it was willing to comply with court orders in other cases.

“This reputational harm could have a longer term economic impact beyond the mere cost of performing the single extraction at issue,” Apple said.

Apple’s argument in New York struck one former NSA lawyer as a telling admission: that its business reputation is now an essential factor in deciding whether to hand over customer information.

“I think Apple did itself a huge disservice,” Susan Hennessey, who was an attorney in the Office of the General Counsel at the NSA, told The Daily Beast. The company acknowledged that it had the technical capacity to unlock the phone, but “objected anyway on reputational grounds,” Hennessey said. Its arguments were at odds with each other, especially in light of Apple’s previous compliance with so many court orders.

It wasn’t until after the revelations of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that Apple began to position itself so forcefully as a guardian of privacy protection in the face of a vast government surveillance apparatus. Perhaps Apple was taken aback by the scale of NSA spying that Snowden revealed. Or perhaps it was embarassed by its own role in it. The company, since 2012, had been providing its customers’ information to the FBI and the NSA via the PRISM program, which operated pursuant to court orders.

Apple has also argued, then and now, that the government is overstepping the authority of the All Writs Act, an 18th-century statute that it claims forces Apple to conduct court-ordered iPhone searches. That’s where the “clear legal authority” question comes into play.

But that, too, is a subjective question which will have to be decided by higher courts. For now, Apple is resisting the government on multiple grounds, and putting its reputation as a bastion of consumer protection front and center in the fight.

None of this has stopped the government from trying to crack the iPhone, a fact that emerged unexpectedly in the New York case. In a brief exchange with attorneys during a hearing in October, Judge James Orenstein said he’d found testimony in another case that the Homeland Security Department “is in possession of technology that would allow its forensic technicians to override the pass codes security feature on the subject iPhone and obtain the data contained therein.”

That revelation, which went unreported in the press at the time, seemed to undercut the government’s central argument that it needed Apple to unlock a protected iPhone.

“Even if [Homeland Security] agents did not have the defendant’s pass code, they would nevertheless have been able to obtain the records stored in the subject iPhone using specialized software,” the judge said. “Once the device is unlocked, all records in it can be accessed and copied.”

A government attorney affirmed that he was aware of the tool. However, it applied only to one update of version 8 of the iPhone operating system—specifically, 8.1.2. The government couldn’t unlock all iPhones, but just phones with that software running.

Still, it made the judge question whether other government agencies weren’t also trying to break the iPhone’s supposedly unbreakable protections. And if so, why should he order the company to help?

There was, the judge told the government lawyer, “the possibility that on the intel side, the government has this capability. I would be surprised if you would say it in open court one way or the other.”

Orenstein was referring to the intelligence agencies, such as the NSA, which develop tools and techniques to hack popular operating systems, and have been particularly interested for years in trying to get into Apple products, according to documents leaked by Snowden.

There was no further explanation of how Homeland Security developed the tool, and whether it was widely used. A department spokesperson declined to comment “on specific law enforcement techniques.” But the case had nevertheless demonstrated that, at least in some cases, the government can, and has, managed to get around the very wall that it now claims impedes lawful criminal investigations.

The showdown between Apple and the FBI will almost certainly not be settled soon. The company is expected to file new legal briefs within days. And the question of whether the All Writs Act applies in such cases is destined for an appeals court decision, legal experts have said.

But for the moment, it appears that the only thing certainly standing in the way of Apple complying with the government is its decision not to. And for its part, the government must be presumed to be searching for new ways to get the information it wants.

Technically, Apple probably can find a way to extract the information that the government wants from the San Bernardino shooter’s phone, Christopher Soghoian, the principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union, told The Daily Beast.

“The question is, does the law give the government the ability to force Apple to create new code?” he said. “Engineers have to sit down and create something that doesn’t exist” in order to meet the government’s demands. Soghoian noted that this would only be possible in the San Bernardino case because the shooter was using an iPhone model 5C, and that newer hardware versions would be much harder for Apple to bypass.

But even that’s in dispute, according to another expert’s analysis. Dan Guido, a self-described hacker and CEO of the cybersecurity company Trail of Bits, said that Apple can, in fact, eliminate the protections that keep law enforcement authorities from trying to break into the iPhone with a so-called brute force attack, using a computer to make millions of password guesses in a short period of time. New iPhones have a feature that stops users from making repeated incorrect guesses and can trigger a kind of self-destruct mechanism, erasing all the phone’s contents, after too many failed attempts.

In a detailed blog post, Guido described how Apple could work around its own protections and effectively disarm the security protections. It wouldn’t be trivial. But it’s feasible, he said, even for the newest versions of the iPhone, which, unlike the ones in the New York and San Bernardino cases, Apple swears it cannot crack.

“The burden placed on Apple will be greater… but it will not be impossible,” Guido told The Daily Beast.

 

By: Shane Harris, The Daily Beast, February 17, 2016

February 20, 2016 Posted by | Apple, Tim Cook, U. S. Government | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Fringe Appeal”: Sanders’ And Trump’s ‘Us vs. Them’ Mentality Won’t Win Over America

If you want a window into the state of U.S. politics, the speeches given by the first- and second-place finishers in New Hampshire’s presidential primary were revealing. But what was striking was that the commonalities among the candidates did not follow party lines as much as they related to the candidates’ “outsider” or “establishment” status.

The outsiders won last night, of course: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, while having been elected to the U.S. House and Senate, did so as an independent and considers himself a democratic socialist. Donald Trump, a real estate developer and reality television personality, has held a variety of positions on political issues and contributed to both parties, but has never before held political office.

The runners up, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican John Kasich, embody their parties’ establishments: Clinton was a first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state. Kasich served as U.S. congressman, chairman of the House Budget Committee and is the popular two-term governor of Ohio.

But in their victory speeches, the outsiders sounded more like each other than they did their partisan colleagues. Sanders and Trump piqued the frustrations and angst of their respective parties’ primary voters.

For Sanders, it was American versus American: Wall Street, the billionaire class and Super PACs versus the victims of the “rigged economy.” His solution: a “political revolution” to make the rich pay their “fair share” so the rest of us can have free college, health care and retirement.

For Trump, it was Americans versus non-Americans: China, Mexico, immigrants and terrorists. His plan is to “earn world respect” and “make American great again” by constructing a border wall and rebuilding the military to “knock the hell out of” the Islamic State group. Unlike Sanders, Trump at least tempered his typical campaign demeanor and rhetoric during his victory speech in an apparent combination of glee and recognition of the fact that he had a national audience in prime time.

Clinton and Kasich, on the other hand, acknowledged and assuaged the insecurities of their parties’ bases by invoking core American values and desires.

Clinton, always politically calculating and often poorly advised, made a somewhat brief attempt to sound the Sanders theme, vowing to “fight Wall Street,” before falling back on her natural strengths. She promised to “work harder than anyone,” and reminded voters of her lifelong commitment to public service (which has proved that she does, indeed, work harder than anyone). She described a “growth and fairness economy” and vowed to support human rights for “every single American.”

Kasich vowed to “re-shine” America. He discussed the importance of the opportunity to work, the desire in each of us to help our families and neighbors and the preference to look to government as a last resort. Kasich promised to heal divisions, “leave no one behind,” and solve problems not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans.

Unfortunately for Sanders and Trump, most Americans still reject the “us versus them” mindset, whether internally or externally focused, espoused by Democrat or Republican. This approach is not just “outsider,” it is “fringe.” That fringe appeal proved to be a successful primary strategy in New Hampshire, but it is neither a viable general election strategy nor a way to govern an already insecure and divided nation.

In contrast, during their New Hampshire primary night speeches, both Clinton and Kasich appeared to have adequately addressed the concerns of their partisan voters while simultaneously appealing to the national electorate that they hope to face in November. To the extent that the term “establishment” correlates with judgment of the sort that Clinton and Kasich demonstrated on primary night in New Hampshire, we might just want to consider using the more appropriate term “qualified.”

 

By: Michael C. Barnes, Thomas Jefferson Street Blog, U. S. News and World Report, February 10, 2016

February 11, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, New Hampshire Primaries | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“No Doubt It Works?”: Donald Trump Wants To Reclassify Waterboarding So It’s No Longer A War Crime For Him To Order It

While there was some discussion among the Republican candidates at Saturday night’s debate in New Hampshire as to whether or not waterboarding was a form of torture (it is), Donald Trump went below and beyond everyone else on stage to insist that not only would he reinstitute waterboarding against America’s enemies, he would “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding” as well. Speaking with CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday morning, Trump elaborated on his position and confirmed that he would “go through a process and get [waterboarding] declassified” as a war crime in order to use it, “at a minimum,” against ISIS if he’s elected president. So far, Trump has not explained what forms of torture he would bring back that are worse than waterboarding, which is essentially simulated drowning. “You can say what you want I have no doubt that it does work in terms of information and other things,” Trump insisted to Tapper, though it’s worth noting that torture doesn’t actually work when it comes to gathering useful intelligence from prisoners.

Regarding the rest of the GOP field’s responses to the torture question Saturday night, Ted Cruz stood by the Bush-administration’s discredited assurance that waterboarding was a form of enhanced interrogation, not torture, though either way he wouldn’t “bring it back in any sort of widespread use.” Jeb Bush changed his position, from saying he wouldn’t rule it out, to last night saying that he was happy with Congress’s ban on waterboarding as it was. Marco Rubio dodged the question by insisting it would be inappropriate to discuss his future plans for America’s interrogation techniques. Regardless, though Rubio missed the Senate vote on banning torture, he has said he would have voted against the ban, and on Saturday night championed the idea of filling up Guantánamo with new prisoners to interrogate.

Though he was not asked about it on Saturday night, New Jersey governor Chris Christie has previously said he did not consider waterboarding torture and would not rule it out as an interrogation method. Carly Fiorina supports the practice as well. Ben Carson has made a statement that seems to suggest he would consider waterboarding prisoners, too. It’s not clear what John Kasich’s position is.

 

By: Jonathan Chait, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, February 7, 2016

February 9, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Enhanced Interrogation, Torture, Waterboarding | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Struck Just The Right Note”: At Baltimore Mosque, Obama Crushes The Muslim Haters

The two most powerful moments during President Obama’s first visit to an American mosque on Wednesday didn’t happen during his speech. Rather, they occurred in the moments before the president took the podium.

The first came when a color guard made up of young Muslim American Boy and Girl Scouts entered the venue. One of the older scouts told the flag bearer: “Proudly present the flag of the United States of America.” The audience, ranging from community leaders to Muslim-American military veterans to the two Muslim members of Congress, stood in unison to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

The words of this pledge never seem to resonate as much. Here we were waiting for the President of the United States to speak to us because the spike in anti-Muslim hate had so skyrocketed that he felt compelled to address the issue. I had to fight back tears as we got to the last line of the pledge: “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

You see, that last line is the promise that brought my Muslim immigrant father as well as the parents, grandparents, and even some of the people in that room to come to America. They came here for the promise of being treated equally regardless of faith, ethnicity, or race. But that promise has been in peril as of late.

And the second moment that emotionally stood out was when the young African-American-Muslim woman, Sabah, introduced the president. Sabah spoke of the challenges of wearing a hijab—some had called her a terrorist. Yet she noted that far more of her fellow Americans of all backgrounds had been supportive. And then she delivered a passionate line that elicited huge applause from the crowd: “I’m proud to be American, I’m proud to be black, and I’m proud to be Muslim.”

That is what America is truly about. We can be hyphenated Americans and be just as American as anyone else.

President Obama even touched on Sabah’s very point in his speech when he said, “You aren’t Muslim or American. You are Muslim and American.” That was a theme that came up often in his speech at the Islamic Center of Baltimore, which was part pep talk for Muslims, part calling out the haters and also part calling on Muslims to play a role in countering radicalization.

But the heart of the President’s speech was trying to educate our fellow Americans about Islam to counter the anti-Muslim climate we live in today. One that has seen close to 100 anti-Muslim hate crimes in the last two months according to a Department of Justice official I spoke to at the event, which is far higher than we see reported in the media.

Obama began by countering the concept that some on the right peddle that Islam is foreign to America. The president declared, “Islam has always been part of America.” Adding, “Starting in colonial times, many of the slaves brought here from Africa were Muslim.”

The president also spoke of how Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia statute for religious freedom expressly included Islam as one of the protected faiths (“the Mahometan” was TJ’s word for a Muslim). Obama also added something I had never heard before: Some had accused Jefferson of being a closeted Muslim. (I wonder who was the Donald Trump of the 1700s who did that?!)

Obama then traced the contributions of Muslims in America as well as noting that Muslim Americans keep us safe. “They’re our police and our firefighters…They serve honorably in our armed forces—meaning they fight and bleed and die for our freedom. And some rest in Arlington National Cemetery. “

And the president recognized the extraordinary Muslims he had met at the mosque that day, from educators to business people to the first hijab-wearing Muslim to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team. But he added that despite the accomplishments of so many Muslims, he “could not help but be heartbroken to hear their worries and their anxieties.”

Obama relayed how he had received letters from Muslim-American parents who shared disturbing questions their young children were asking, like, “Are we going to be forced out of the country? Are we going to be rounded up?” Another Muslim American child wrote to him to say, “I’m scared.” The president responded forcefully that these are “conversations that you shouldn’t have to have with children—not in this country.”

The reality though is that’s where we are today as a community. There are young Muslim Americans who have been made to feel less than fully American simply because of their faith. We are seeing Muslim-American students bullied and taunted for wearing a hijab or having a first name like Mohammed.

The questions I find myself asking are: Will it get worse? Will the extreme voices win out? Will the good people simply be “bystanders to bigotry,” as Obama put it? Or will the voices of reason prevail?

I’m sure many Muslims at the event had similar question in mind. Perhaps sensing that, Obama told the audience: “I believe that, ultimately, our best voices will win out. And that gives me confidence and faith in the future.”

With of every fiber of my being I believe the president is correct. And despite the Trumps, Ben Carsons, or others on the right who believe that demonizing Muslims will make us cower in fear or even consider leaving this country, they are wrong. Our community, like every other minority community, will grow and prosper. I say that because our nation’s history tells us so. And because of our nation’s eternal promise that liberty and justice are not reserved only for one select religion or race, but “for all.”

 

By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, February 4, 2016

February 6, 2016 Posted by | American Muslims, Bigotry, Islamophobia | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“ISIS’ Best Recruiter”: Will Clinton Apologize To Trump? ‘Hell, No’

During Saturday night’s debate, Hillary Clinton raised a familiar concern that has a lot of merit: Donald Trump’s bigoted rhetoric has the effect of helping America’s enemies. We need to make sure, Clinton said at the debate, that Trump’s more hateful rhetoric doesn’t “fall in receptive ears” abroad.

“He is becoming ISIS’s best recruiter,” the Democratic frontrunner added. “They are going to people showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists.”

The syntax got a little garbled, but it sounded as if Clinton was saying there are already ISIS videos in circulation featuring Trump’s rhetoric. Since that does not appear to be the case, Trump is demanding an apology.

That’s not going to happen.

A spokesman for Hillary Clinton says “hell, no,” the candidate won’t apologize to Donald Trump for calling him “ISIS’ best recruiter.”

“Hillary Clinton will not be apologizing to Donald Trump for correctly pointing out how his hateful rhetoric only helps ISIS recruit more terrorists,” said spokesman Brian Fallon in a statement.

It’s worth unpacking this a bit, because the entire story helps capture just how odd this year’s presidential race really is.

First, let’s focus on the substance. Trump’s whining notwithstanding, the truth of the matter is Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric is noticed abroad and has been utilized by radicals. Rita Katz, executive director of the SITE Intelligence Group, recently explained to NBC News that Middle Eastern radicals “love” Trump “from the sense that he is supporting their rhetoric. They follow everything Donald Trump says. When he says, ‘No Muslims should be allowed in America,’ they tell people, ‘We told you America hates Muslims and here is proof.’”

Clinton could have worded this better, but her underlying point is sound: Trump is providing rhetorical ammunition to America’s enemies. There’s ample evidence to bolster the argument.

Second, the lack of self-awareness surrounding Trump’s complaints is astounding, even for him. Without a hint of irony, the Republican frontrunner said this afternoon, in reference to Clinton’s debate comments, “There is no video.” Seriously? Wasn’t the reality-based community using the same four words when Trump claimed he saw imaginary video of thousands of American Muslims celebrating 9/11 in New Jersey?

Third, Trump may not realize this, but for a guy who’s preoccupied with “strength” and “toughness,” watching him whine about Hillary Clinton hurting his feelings isn’t exactly consistent with the image he works so hard to project.

Finally, note that the fight itself is exactly the kind of showdown Clinton and her team want to have. It’s to their benefit to treat Trump like the Republican nominee, and offer a preview of the kind of general-election fight they’d love to have – with the Democrat on the offensive, and the Republican waiting for an apology that will never arrive.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 22, 201

December 23, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, ISIS, Radicalization | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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