Over at We Meant Well, always-interesting writer Peter Van Buren provides a funny rundown of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)’s blunders he suggests prevented it from accessing information on an iPhone connected to the December 2 San Bernardino, California killings. The FBI sure does look like the Keystone Cops with Van Buren’s tale of mistakes that put the FBI into a situation where, to uncover encrypted information from the iPhone, it has to depend on a US magistrate judge ordering Apple, the phone’s manufacturer, to create a means to breach the phone’s information security.
But, is there something more sinister taking place behind the scenes? Governments are renowned for incompetence, so you cannot rule out, barring more information, that a series of blunders did occur. At the same time, blunders in this instance would create a situation that sure is convenient for a US government intent on ensuring it can obtain access to everyone’s encrypted information. The blunders, after all, provided the FBI with a reason to seek the court order in a case where the facts are quite advantageous for the government.
US government lawyers intent on breaking down technological privacy protections should be expected to focus their efforts on a case with facts that would allow their arguments to appeal most to judges in courtrooms as well as to Americans more generally. What facts are better as a starting point for demonstrating the need to require companies to create backdoors to overcome information security than that a backdoor is necessary to uncover information connected to the phone of a terrorist responsible for mass murdering his coworkers at a holiday party?