(Cyberwar.news) Former National Security Agency contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden has sounded off regarding arguments over the FBI’s attempt to force Apple, Inc., to provide technology to unlock an iPhone 5C that was used by one of the San Bernardino jihadists.
Snowden, whose revelations sparked a massive debate over mass government electronic surveillance, ostensibly in the interests of national security, said the FBI already has the ability to unlock the phone.
Talking via video link from Moscow to the Common Cause Blueprint for a Great Democracy conference, Snowden said: “The FBI says Apple has the ‘exclusive technical means’ to unlock the phone. Respectfully, that’s bulls**t.”
The FBI says only Apple can deactivate certain passcode protections for its iPhones, thereby giving law enforcement access rather than having to resort to a brute-force cyber assault, The Guardian reported. Snowden tweeted his support for an American Civil Liberties Union report arguing that the FBI’s claims are fraudulent.
Meanwhile, in a discussion on Reddit, Microsoft founder Bill Gates said there should be more debate about government access to personal data.
“I think there needs to be a discussion about when the government should be able to gather information. What if we had never had wiretapping? Also the government needs to talk openly about safeguards,” he said.
While refusing to be drawn into taking one side or the other in the FBI-Apple case, Gates appeared to support the FBI before backtracking somewhat, The Guardian noted. Later, Microsoft filed an amicus brief with the federal court in support of Apple.
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak also lashed out against the FBI on the Conan O’Brien show last week, saying, “I side with Apple on this one. [The FBI] picked the lamest case you ever could.”
“Verizon turned over all the phone records and SMS messages,” he added. “So they want to take this other phone that the two didn’t destroy, which was a work phone. It’s so lame and worthless to expect there’s something on it and to get Apple to expose it.”
Apple’s battle with the FBI will reach a climax in California later in March when both meet in federal court to discuss whether the smartphone maker should be forced to weaken the security protections on the iPhone in question.
The FBI’s case was set back somewhat recently after Magistrate Judge James Orenstein ruled against the Justice Department on Feb. 29, in a different case involving the unlocking of a phone.
The government is appealing that case.
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