Watchdog: FBI took Apple to court too soon over locked iPhone

An outside party was 90 percent to finding a solution to opening the San Bernardino, Calif., mass shooter's iPhone for the FBI when the agency took Apple to court to unlock it. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI

March 27 (UPI) — The FBI did not exhaust all options to access an iPhone belonging to the San Bernardino, Calif., mass shooter before seeking a court order forcing Apple to unlock the device, the Justice Department’s watchdog agency said in a report released Tuesday.

The Department of Justice Inspector General report said the FBI unit responsible for accessing mobile devices asked for outside help to open the iPhone one day before the court filing in February 2016. The chief of the unit also knew that one outside party was about 90 percent of the way on a solution to unlocking the phone.

Investigators were seeking possible evidence on the iPhone 5C belonging to Syed Rizwan Farook, who, along with his wife, Tashfeen Malik, gunned down 14 people in December 2015 at an office party. The FBI wanted Apple to disable the iPhone’s features that reset the device and erased its contents after too many incorrect passcode entries. Apple refused on the grounds it would create security and privacy issues in the future.

The FBI ended up paying more than $1 million for a tool to hack into the phone, former FBI Director James Comey said in April. Bringing in the third party ended the FBI’s months-long battle with Apple.


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