FBI: We Screwed Up Trying to Unlock Phone

Apple, FBI clash at encryption hearing
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 2, 2016 3:09 AM CST
Updated Mar 2, 2016 4:44 AM CST
FBI: We Screwed Up Trying to Unlock Phone
FBI Director James Comey testifies at a House Judiciary Committee hearing.   (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Apple general counsel Bruce Sewell clashed with FBI Director James Comey at a congressional hearing on encryption Tuesday—and the latter man admitted that the hearing was taking place because the FBI messed up. Comey, who is trying to force Apple to unlock the iPhone of San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook, said at the House Judiciary Committee hearing that FBI agents reset the password to try to obtain data from the device but ended up locking themselves out, the New York Times reports. "There was a mistake made in the 24 hours after the attack," he said. Sewell said that if the FBI had followed Apple's advice, "the very information that the FBI is seeking would have been available, and we could have pulled it down from the cloud."

As the hearing addressed the broader issues involved, Comey denied that the FBI wanted to create a "back door" to Apple devices, saying that there is already a door and they are "asking Apple to take the vicious guard dog away and let us pick the lock." Sewell countered that the FBI "is asking Apple to weaken the security of our products," the AP reports. But both sides agreed on one thing: The question of whether privacy concerns outweigh public safety concerns in cases involving encryption should be settled by Congress, not the courts. (On Monday, Apple was handed a victory in a separate case involving a locked iPhone.)

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