The latest turn of events in the public battle between the FBI and Apple took another turn over the weekend, with the FBI dropping its demand that Apple help it unlock the phone of a alleged drug dealer.
The FBI had previously stated that its demand that Apple grant it access to the phone of the San Bernardino shooter was a one-off request. This assertion was called in to doubt when it requested similar access to a phone related to another criminal proceeding (the criminal 'forgot' his passcode, it would seem). Yet once again, the FBI has backed down, retracting its request.
Is this a permanent retreat? Or is the FBI keeping its powder dry?
The FBI claimed for weeks in a California court that it couldn’t unlock the iPhone of terrorist Syed Farook unless Apple was compelled to create a new operating system, but then reported at the 11th hour that an unspecified outside party had engineered a solution that didn’t require Apple’s help. Justice lawyers also insisted the purpose of the litigation wasn’t to create a legal precedent, but that such extraordinary commandeering was an exception for “one phone” related to terrorism. This claim never stood up to scrutiny, given the nationwide profusion of such cases. But the Brooklyn flame-out is especially instructive about the FBI-Justice method without the crutch of invoking the fast-moving terror exigencies or uncovering potential domestic cells.