FBI Director On Terrorist's iPhone: 'We Don't Want To Break Anyone's Encryption'

It seems like everyone and their uncle has an opinion or proposed solution on the iPhone encryption debate that has Apple at odds with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Apple's stance is that complying with the court order to essentially push out a security-breaking update to the iPhone that belonged to one of the San Bernardino shooters would set a dangerous legal precedent that puts the security and privacy of all iPhone owners at risk. As you might imagine, the FBI feels a bit differently, and now its director is appealing to the public's emotional side.

In an op-ed piece posted to Lawfare, a blog devoted to "that nebulous zone in which actions taken or contemplated to protect the nation interact with the nation's laws and legal systems," Comey says the FBI isn't trying to set a precedent, nor is the agency trying to let loose a so-called master key that would put every iPhone (and by extension, every iOS device) at risk. It's about the "fourteen people [who] were slaughtered" and the others who "had their lives and bodies ruined."


"We owe them a thorough and professional investigation under law. That's what this is," Comey says. "The American people should expect nothing less from the FBI."

To be clear, Apple has never sympathized with the shooters involved. It's also not blind to the fact that more than a dozen innocent people were gunned down by individuals who would later be labeled terrorists. But for Apple, this is strictly a matter of not going down a slippery legal slope. Comey addressed that, too.

"The particular legal issue is actually quite narrow. The relief we seek is limited and its value increasingly obsolete because the technology continues to evolve," Comey says. "We simply want the chance, with a search warranty, to try to guess the terrorist's passcode without the phone essentially self-destructing and without it taking a decade to guess correctly. That's it. We don't want to break anyone's encryption or set a master key loose on the land."

Comey went on to acknowledge that this is a complex issue and that we now have "awesome new technology that creates a serious tension between two values we all treasure: privacy and safety." However, Comey says it's not a tension that should be resolved by "corporations that sell stuff for a living," nor should the FBI resolve it.

"It should be resolved by the American people deciding how we want to govern ourselves in a world we have never seen before," Comey added.

So there you have it. What do you think about Comey's emotional plea? Does he have a point, or is Apple doing the right thing by standing its ground? Share your thoughts in the comments section!