FBI Director Admits Mistakes Were Made With Apple iPhone After San Bernardino Attack


FBI Director James Comey admitted in a hearing today that mistakes were made with the terrorist’s phone in the early days of the San Bernardino terror attack investigation, but he says the FBI would still need additional data from the Apple phone, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Comey directed his remarks during a congressional hearing on encryption, which is the subject of a legal battle between the agency and Apple since the company refused to help investigators open an iPhone seized in the December terror attack.

A court has ordered Apple to help the FBI bypass the phone’s passcode security system. The agency wants to disable a security feature that shuts down the phone after 10 failed password attempts. The data becomes encrypted when the phone locks.

Apple: County Made Mistakes

Apple claimed that if San Bernardino County officials had not reset the phone’s cloud storage account, the FBI might have been able to access more of the phone’s data by connecting the device to the Wi-Fi system in the shooter’s apartment.

Comey said there is truth to Apple’s argument, but he said that even if the account had not been reset, the parties would still be in court over additional data the FBI wants from the phone. He said there was a mistake made in the 24 hours following the attack when county employees did things in response to the FBI’s request that made it impossible to get the phone to back up to the iCloud.

But there is no way they would have gotten everything they wanted from the phone from a backup, Comey said.

Also read: Tim Cook: Building iPhone backdoor is ‘dangerous’; govt demand is ‘chilling’

Apple Can Use Comey’s Remarks

Privacy experts and Apple are expected to use Comey’s comments to argue that the company should not have to compensate for investigators’ mistake. Bruce Sewell, Apple’s general counsel, was expected to testify after Comey did.

On Feb. 16, 2016, the government asked a court to compel Apple to assist in the investigation. The court granted the request, thereby compelling the company to create new software to enable the government to hack into the iPhone 5c used by one of the attackers.

Apple said the case is not about an isolated phone but about the government seeking a dangerous power to force companies to undermine the privacy and basic security interests of hundreds of millions.

Apple said the government demands that it create a back door to defeat the encryption on the phone, which would make confidential and personal information vulnerable to identity thieves, hackers, foreign agents and unwarranted government surveillance. It states the All Writs Act of 1789, on which the government bases its case, does not give the court a “roving commission” to command Apple in this manner.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

Lester Coleman is a veteran business journalist based in the United States. He has covered the payments industry for several years and is available for writing assignments.