Edward Snowden Calls BS On FBI’s Claimed Inability To Unlock San Bernardino iPhone

Rather than work things out in private, the FBI has chosen to drag Apple through court and force its hand in providing technical assistance in cracking the security of an iPhone 5c model that belonged to one of the San Bernardino shooters. There's been a lot of posturing on both sides, and with regards to the FBI, former NSA contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden says the agency is fully capable of unlocking the phone without Apple's help.

Snowden is the latest high profile individual to offer up commentary in the feud between the FBI and Apple. He's also uniquely qualified to discuss what the FBI is and isn't capable of doing, as he was the one who leaked thousands of documents and data detailing just how extensive the U.S. government's secret spying program was.

Edward Snowden

"The FBI says Apple has the 'exclusive technical means' to unlock the phone. Respectfully, that's bulls**t," Snowden said in a video feed from Moscow to the Common Cause Blueprint for a Great Democracy conference.

After the conference, Snowden posted a link on Twitter to an American Civil Liberties Union article detailing how the FBI could crack the iPhone 5c model in its possession without any help from Apple and without destroying the data inside.

One of the FBI's arguments in compelling the courts to force Apple's hand is that after 10 wrong passcode guesses, the data is wiped and permanently inaccessible. The ACLU says that's not the case if federal agents do their job correctly. Sidestepping some of the technical details in the article, the ALCU argues that the FBI could copy the flash memory from the iPhone before it tries 10 passcode attempts.

"It can then retry indefinitely because it can restore the NAND flash memory from its backup copy," ALCU says.

What the ALCU and Snowden think is really going on is that the FBI is looking to set a legal precedent, one that would give it the necessary power to "compel software and hardware providers to build, provide, and vouch for deliberately weakened code." It's also looking to weaken the ecosystem, ALCU says.