Feds Drop 2nd iPhone Fight With Apple
Case abruptly ends when passcode handed over
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 23, 2016 11:12 AM CDT
Apple can still easily break into the iPhone 5s, but it has told the government that it won't.   (AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File)

(Newser) – The looming fight between the government and Apple over encryption has been delayed again—this time after the passcode to the locked iPhone of a New York drug trafficker was simply handed over. "An individual provided the department with the passcode to the locked phone at issue," a Justice Department spokesman said in a statement. "Because we now have access to the data we sought, we notified the court of this recent development and have withdrawn our request for assistance." The DEA had obtained a search warrant to look through the iPhone 5s of meth dealer Jun Feng. Unlike newer models, it is a phone that Apple can easily crack, but the company, which had assisted authorities in scores of similar cases, refused the DEA's request for help, CNN reports.

Feng—who claimed to have forgotten the passcode—pleaded guilty late last year, but the government and Apple kept the legal fight over the phone going in the hope of setting a legal precedent for such cases, the Guardian reports. The government had been about to appeal a recent ruling in favor of Apple which said officials didn't have the authority to force companies to allow investigators into devices, the Wall Street Journal reports, which makes the sudden end of the case a big setback for the government. Sources tell the Journal that the person who provided the passcode was Feng himself, who appears to have had a sudden flash of memory after recently discovering that his phone was still involved in a legal battle. (FBI Director James Comey hinted it cost more than $1 million to pay hackers to crack a phone in a similar but unrelated case.)