The Justice Department said Friday it has withdrawn a request that sought a court order forcing Apple to assist in opening a locked iPhone 5s linked to a drug case in New York.
According to a court filing, the Justice Department no longer needs Apple’s assistance in unlocking the device because an individual provided investigators with the correct passcode Thursday.
This is yet another demonstration that DoJ didn’t need to dragoon a private enterprise into blowing up its own product—here hacking its encryption algorithm, to the detriment of its product and of its private citizen customers—for government convenience. Government had the capability to get into the iPhone with its own resources.
This cracking, in fact, demonstrates two things: the first is that DoJ was cynically using the suits here and in the San Bernardino terrorism case solely for getting a court ruling that Government can force private enterprise to participate in Government searches, to destroy its own product, whenever Government takes a notion to demand it.
The other is that Government’s need for Apple’s help, which was Government’s claimed motive for its lawsuits against Apple, was a mirage. On the contrary, these suits were nothing more than an execution of Government’s demand for control over private citizens’ personal data.
In each of the above cases, Government hacked the Apple phones’ encryption systems, encryption applied by the phone owners, not by Apple (Apple just made the capability available). These hacks exposed weaknesses in Apple’s encryption algorithm. In each of the above cases, Government has refused to tell Apple the nature of the weaknesses: the weaknesses are the backdoors into privately developed encryption algorithms that DoJ’s FBI Director James Comey has been demanding.