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Archive for March 29th, 2016

FBI Opens iPhone without the Help of Apple; Justice Department Withdraws Case

Apple logoBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The federal government has successfully cracked the security function on an iPhone of one of the San Bernardino terrorists and officially withdrew its legal battle against Apple.

But the USA Today suggests the bigger battle over tech privacy “is just getting started,” citing observers in the industry.

“This lawsuit may be over, but the Constitutional and privacy questions it raised are not,” Congressman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who had criticized the Justice Department’s suit against Apple, said in a statement Monday.

An unidentified entity suggested a method to open the phone without erasing its contents, allowing the government to gain access to the phone.

Apple still defended its position that creating a backdoor for law enforcement would enable less scrupulous people from hacking into phones.

“This case should never have been brought,” Apple said in a statement released late Monday. “We will continue to help law enforcement with their investigations, as we have done all along, and we will continue to increase the security of our products as the threats and attacks on our data become more frequent and more sophisticated. … This case raised issues which deserve a national conversation about our civil liberties, and our collective security and privacy.”

Boston Globe: Apple’s Battle with FBI Is Not a Free Speech Issue

Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Apple CEO Tim Cook.

By Editorial Board
Boston Globe

Apple may have won widespread public sympathy in its showdown with the FBI, but some of its less publicized decisions in the case should raise alarms. As part of its legal campaign to resist an order to break into a terrorist’s iPhone, the company is quietly pushing a pro-corporate interpretation of the First Amendment that could do real damage to the government’s ability to regulate commerce and protect consumers.

A bit of background: After the terrorist massacre in San Bernardino last year, federal investigators were unable to access an iPhone that belonged to Syed Farook, one of the attackers. To overcome the phone’s security features, authorities ordered Apple to write new software that would allow the FBI to break into the phone. Apple says creating the code the FBI demands would weaken privacy protections for all iPhone users and has engaged in a war of words with the Justice Department over the government’s demand. The legal battle is now on hold as the FBI explores a possible workaround that might allow investigators to enter the phone without Apple’s help. But if that method fails, the case could soon heat up again.

Much of the company’s case rests on reasonable objections to the FBI’s interpretation of a 1789 law, the All Writs Act, which the government claims gives investigators the power to demand Apple help them. But Apple goes a step further, adding a misguided constitutional contention. That part of the company’s case goes like this: Complying with the FBI order would require it to write code. Computer code, courts have ruled in other cases, is a form of speech. Thus, the order amounts to a First Amendment violation.“The government seeks to compel Apple’s speech” in the form of code it objects to writing, the company said in a court filing.

But while Apple has a lot of good reasons to fight the FBI in the San Bernardino case, the First Amendment is not one of them.

To read more click here. 

Nearly 150 FBI Agents Investigating Clinton’s Use of Private E-Mail

hillary-clinton

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

If you think the FBI probe into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server is just a right-wing creation, consider this: 147 agents are investigating the case.

And the investigation has entered a second stage as agents prepare to interview Clinton and some of her top aides.

But the Washington Post reports that “Clinton is very unlikely to be punished” because it wasn’t forbidden for secretary of states to use private e-mail. Plus, past secretaries of state also have used private e-mails.

The Post writes:

On the good news front, the push to wrap it up one way or the other soon means that if she is largely cleared of wrongdoing, this story won’t continue to dog her in a general election race — or it at least won’t be an active investigation during that contest. On the bad news front, you never really want 150 FBI agents chasing down leads in relation to anything you have a hand in. That’s just a lot of people digging through your professional life.

Justice Department Resumes Controversial Program That Lets Cops Seize Cash, Property

cash2By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The Justice Department’s controversial program that allows police to seize and keep cash and property from people who have never been convicted or even charged is resuming.

The Justice Department suspended the “equitable sharing” program last year because of budget cuts.

“In the months since we made the difficult decision to defer equitable sharing payments because of the $1.2 billion rescinded from the Asset Forfeiture Fund, the financial solvency of the fund has improved to the point where it is no longer necessary to continue deferring Equitable Sharing payments,” spokesman Peter J. Carr told the Washington Post. 

The program has a lot of critics who contend police become motivated “more by profit ad less by justice,” the Post wrote.

Asset forfeiture has exploded over the past several years, climbing from less than $1 bill in 2004 to more than $5 billion in 2014.

Other Stories of Interest

FBI, Local Officials Briefly Detain 17 Men of Middle Eastern Descent After 100+ Gunshots Reported

Apple ValleyBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Law enforcement briefly detained 17 men of Middle Eastern descent in a remote part of Apple Valley, Calif., after campers said they heard chanting and hundreds of gunshots Sunday morning.

The FBI and San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies responded and interviewed the men, but no charges were filed and the shooters were released.

San Bernardino County sheriff’s spokeswoman Jodi Mille said there was no evidence the men committed a crime or had outstanding warrants.

“None of the persons interviewed yesterday were identified as terrorists,” she said.

Law enforcement officials found several handguns, a shotgun and rifle.

“A records check of the subjects, their weapons, and their vehicles was completed,” the statement said. “The records check revealed none of the subjects had a criminal history or outstanding warrants, the weapons were registered with the Department of Justice except for the rifle, and the vehicles were also registered.”

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