Edward Snowden disputes FBI's inability to unlock iPhone in San Bernardino case

During a recent talk on surveillance, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden called the FBI's claimed inability to access the iPhone of one of the the San Bernardino shooters without Apple's help into question. According to The Intercept, Snowden rejected outright that the FBI did not posses the means to break into the shooter's phone.

"The FBI says Apple has the 'exclusive technical means'" to unlock the phone, Snowden said during a discussion at Common Cause's Blueprint for Democracy conference."Respectfully, that's bullsh*t," he said, over a video link from Moscow.

Snowden, unfortunately, wasn't able to elaborate on his response during the talk. However, he later took to Twitter with an explanation, linking to a posting from the ACLU, which details why the FBI's claim that it can't break into the iPhone is inaccurate.

This is not the first time that someone has questioned whether the FBI actually needs Apple's assistance unlocking the iPhone at the center of this case. Indeed, it seems increasingly likely that the FBI would use this case as a precedent when making similar requests of Apple down the line.

You can see the full talk with Snowden in the video below.

Joseph Keller

Joseph Keller is the former Editor in Chief of iMore. An Apple user for almost 20 years, he spends his time learning the ins and outs of iOS and macOS, always finding ways of getting the most out of his iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac.

  • Encourage all companies to improve security and not create back-doors and/or weaken security efforts. Please join me in signing the White House petition at http://1.usa.gov/1R9A4cM
  • Geez, no offense, but it's the only thing that you are posting
  • Seeing his comment first is almost as predictable as seeing one with Rene bashing Samsung! Sent from the iMore App
  • Or Fandroid trolls bashing Rene!
  • Encourage terrorists to communicate via unbreakable encryption & kill more innocent people. *****. Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • I take it you want to limit possible alphanumeric passwords as the passcode as well? Because 10 tries or not, a strong password that has a mix of uppercase/lowercase/numbers/symbols will essentially be unbeatable due to the sheer number of possibilities.
  • Tell your American Empire to stop making mortal enemies by subjugating Third World Nations, all to make the Elites richer, and to protect your way of life because your people can't compete with the World's best and brightest. I know it will be tough, considering the U.S.A. is no longer the great Constitutional Democratic Republic. But you gotta ask yourself, are you an AmeriCAN or an AmeriCAN'T? Sent from the iMore App
  • Yup. But, actually, we were never a great constitutional democratic republic. But we play one on TV!
  • FBI wants to make it a precedent and they abuse Apple for it. They want the San Bernardino case to become the key to empower the FBI. If FBI will loose this special case, the are loosing much more. They can't step back and must keep on pushing it forward. I hope Apple and especially Tim Cook remain strong. It is our all democracy. We all have to back Apple and stand with them.
    Guido Lange @1World2Care4 Berlin, Germany Sent from the iMore App
  • So, if Snowden is right (and Apple WRONG), the iPhone still isn't REALLY fully secure from the FBI is it? Then, Apple would effectively be lying?
  • No. Nobody asked Apple to unlock the Phone, they want a backdoored iOS version. Snowden is helping Apple, by saying that the FBI doesn't NEED Apple to make a backdoored iOS version, that they can get the contents of the phone if they want.
  • The point is...Apple is saying it's IMPOSSIBLE to gain access to it even for them. Backdoor or not, they are trying to publicly state their encryption is essentially unbreakable. How does Snowden's argument help Apple then when they say it can't be done? If so, Cook is lying. If Cook is telling the truth then Snowden is not helping the FBI, not Apple. Get it? Sent from the iMore App
  • I'm not sure what Tim said. But I'm sure that it can be done but Apple won't do it. Tim should had said that "Apple won't do it " , instead of "Apple can't do it" . Everything is possible but no one want to tarnish there image by saying " yes the phone isn't that secure if you're smart enough " . Just a fun fact, no cruise line will come out and said there's a very small possibility that our ship will sink and our passengers will die but titanic , advert as the unsinkable, did sank.
  • There are numerous ways to make a possible hack to that iPhone, including Snowden’s plan. According to the experts however the problem is that those methods could work in theory, but in practise in every case there are things that could go wrong, which will lead to destroying data on the drive. Apple can’t recommend any of the hacks if there is even slight risk of destroying evidence, that’s why they are right telling, that forcing them to creating a backdoor is the only way to get into the device. http://www.macworld.com/article/3042659/security/experts-say-chip-off-pr...
  • I firmly believe the FBI can access the data on the iPhone and probably already has. However, they're using this case as avenue to do it "legally" in the eyes of Joe Public and for Apple to think they can't. If they just outright said they could get in the phone, that would cast a lot more security fear into people. They need congress and the courts to force the issue so their "back door" can stay open, legally.
  • There's a lot of "theory" being tossed around by some high profile people including Snowdon and Mcafee. If were as easy as they make out why no proof of concept? It's not like iPhones are hard to come by.
  • It's been my opinion all along that Apple, for marketing reasons only, has been playing the privacy card on this one. Mainly to kick the last legs out from BlackBerry who has arguably the most secure OS variants. If Apple plays this out right, then the crown of security in public opinion anyway, would belong to Apple. What a conniving coup. It's been very entertaining to this observer how Apple is skilfully playing this FBI ka-fuffell up for all it's worth with Apple legions taking the bait. I have no doubt Snowden is bang on, and Apple either will abide by the court order themselves, or will assist the FBI in one way or another at the end of the day. They are not above the law.
  • Snowden is totally right these chips can be turned off where they would no longer trigger the chip to protect the data and they could possibly replace the chip with another that would take its place and cause that replacement chip to enter the system to the information they desire.
    After all these chips are just primitive smoke signals, zeros and ones. We make them out to be much more because most people don't understand how they are used. Every one of us turn a switch on to make light appear many times a day and the other thing they do is they turn the same light off.
    I know it isn't all that simple to someone who doesn't understand digital electronics but to someone who understands the basic fundamentals this is not a big mystery.
  • Very simple. FBI calls NSA, Done!
  • But then news of the exploit method would get thrashed out in public court, Apple would patch it and then the NSA is down an intelligence method. NSA will be keeping those exploits very close to their chests.