FBI doesn't want to 'set a precedent' with the iPhone

As the battle between Apple and the FBI over the iPhone 5C belonging to the San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook rages, FBI Director James Comey has wrote an editorial for the Lawfare blog.

In it, he tried to counter Apple CEO Tim Cook's criticism, who said that the court's decision, which forces Apple to help the FBI access Farook's phone, could have 'chilling' implications.

In the editorial, he said the FBI is not trying to set a precedent here. The Agency has a lead and just wants to follow it, he said.

"The San Bernardino litigation isn't about trying to set a precedent or send any kind of message. It is about the victims and justice. Fourteen people were slaughtered and many more had their lives and bodies ruined. We owe them a thorough and professional investigation under law. That's what this is. The American people should expect nothing less from the FBI,” he said.

The problem with the phone is that the government reset the passcode on the device. If it had not done so, the company could have backed up the data to the iCloud and handed it over from there. As things are now, it would need to update the phone with a special version of the iOS. Then, the FBI would need to try a bunch of passwords until it stumbles upon the right one.

“We simply want the chance, with a search warrant, 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,” he continues.

“Maybe the phone holds the clue to finding more terrorists. Maybe it doesn’t. But we can't look the survivors in the eye, or ourselves in the mirror, if we don't follow this lead.”