The Federal Bureau of Investigation folded on its bluff to force Apple to help it create a method of accessing data on a locked iPhone 5C used by Syed Rizwan Farook. The case was headed for court and the FBI dreaded losing its case. The only hope the FBI had was Tim Cook suffering a Tylenol overdose.
Turns out the F.B.I. seized on the San Bernardino case as an opportunity to pursue a policy agenda that it has had for years, and that it oversold its case. The agency said that it was unable to unlock the iPhone 5C without Apple’s assistance. But as Daniel Kahn Gillmor, a technology fellow at the American Civil Liberties Union, pointed out in a blog post published on March 7th, this claim didn’t ring entirely true. In his piece, which included pictures of an iPhone 5C’s circuit board, Gillmor described how investigators could work around the auto-erase feature by removing the device’s NAND flash memory and backing it up, then trying every conceivable four-digit passcode combination.
“If the FBI doesn’t have the equipment or expertise to do this, they can hire any one of dozens of data recovery firms that specialize in information extraction from digital devices,” he wrote.
It’s not known for certain if the F.B.I. used the method that Gillmor recommended to get into Farook’s phone. But the post suggested that the Bureau hadn’t exhausted all of the technological possibilities for accessing the data.
Sound familar? It should. The FBI bungled the Anthrax investigation and got off the hook when the case didn't go to court after Bruce Ivins died. Then the FBI was free to defame Bruce's character and considered the case solved. Of course, the FBI case would have been laughed out of court as Bruce did not have the expertise or the equipment to make the stuff.
This is a lesson learned for defense lawyers who face going to court against the DOJ/FBI in such technological cases, it may be a headache but keep your clients away from Tylenol. The FBI will fold every time. They play a good game but they got nothin.