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Feds Used 1789 Law To Force Apple, Google To Unlock Phones 63 Times (arstechnica.com) 101

An anonymous reader writes: The FBI has been citing a 1789 law, the All Writs Act, to compel Apple to assist the authorities in unlocking the iPhone 5c belonging to San Bernardino killer, Syed Farook. The law allows for judges to issue orders for people or companies to do something despite Congress not passing laws to cover specific instances. According to the Civil Liberties Union, the U.S. government has cited the All Writs Act in 63 cases since 2008 to compel Apple or Google to assist in accessing data stored on an iPhone or Android device. Most of the orders involved Apple. "To the extent we know about the underlying facts, these cases predominantly arise out of investigations into drug crimes," said Eliza Sweren-Becker, an ACLU attorney.
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Feds Used 1789 Law To Force Apple, Google To Unlock Phones 63 Times

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  • Apple is the choice of terrorists!
    • by harrkev ( 623093 ) <{kfmsd} {at} {harrelsonfamily.org}> on Wednesday March 30, 2016 @07:35PM (#51811723) Homepage

      Apple is the choice of terrorists!

      So, phones should be insecure so that the government (and criminals) can get into them?

      The same encryption that protects terrorists protects YOUR credit card info and naughty pictures on your phone.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Apple is the choice of terrorists!

        So, phones should be insecure so that the government (and criminals) can get into them?

        The same encryption that protects terrorists protects YOUR credit card info and naughty pictures on your phone.

        I'm reminded of a the 'give the devil the benefit of the law' scene from "A Man for All Seasons":

        * https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMqReTJkjjg

    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )

      which means Android is a leaky pile of [bleep]?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Something to think about, if the terrorists use it, it is because it works. If you somehow think that having the government able to unlock devices at will somehow stops terrorists, well... Obviously you don't understand encryption.

      Encryption is just math, anyone with enough understanding in mathematics and app development can implement encryption. The government will need to go after each encrypting entity to prevent easy access to easily encrypted data. But here the kicker, the government is limited in wha

  • by Steve1952 ( 651150 ) on Wednesday March 30, 2016 @07:50PM (#51811787)
    Personally, I think that the main reason why the Feds backed off is that they realized that if the all writs act ever gets to the Supreme Court, it is going down. Ironically a different part of the same 1789 judiciary act was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Marbury v. Madison (1803). This was the classic case where the Supreme Court struck down an act of Congress for the first time. Apple is an organization with enough power and credibility to take this case to the Supreme Court. So it made sense to back off and preserve the "validity" of the all writs act for future use.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Why would it be unconstitutional? I'm not saying it isn't unconstitutional, just curious what the violation would be here.

      On the other hand, I am very sick of hearing this "1789 Law" crap in the media. The Constitution is pretty old too, but we still consider it good law, yet this statute is considered trash simply because of its age? Talk about idiocracy.

      • The All Writs Act is basically a blank check for the Courts to order someone (individual or company) to do something. It has not been challenged to the Supreme Court yet, so it is still in force. If it is challenged to the Supreme Court, the challenging party will cite it violates the 14th Amendment (Due Process) and possibly the 13th Amendment (Involuntary Servitude).

      • The constitution has been amended many times and interpreted many times. It's not the same thing that it started as. And yes, it needed interpretation because it is not clear and unambiguous.

        Read the original, it is clunky and disjoint and just plain bad in places. It's a barely workable compromise between groups of people who didn't want to cooperate, federalists and anti-federalists. Two of the original colonies hadn't even signed it when the first congress met, and there were quite a few who felt tha

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Yes it would have been interesting to see the demand to be conscripted per phone to having to create gov ready software for all phones of a generation within a brand.
      The gov ready master key that gave a gov worker or contractor access to any phone in a generation from any gov computer.
      http://nypost.com/2016/03/02/f... [nypost.com] (March 2, 2016)
      "“The request we got from the government in this case is, ‘Take this tool and put it on a hard drive, send it to the FBI,’ and they’d load it onto th
      • "“The request we got from the government in this case is, ‘Take this tool and put it on a hard drive, send it to the FBI,’ and they’d load it onto their computer,” "

        Except, that is entirely a lie. The court order is available to be read, why would anyone believe that dribble?

        https://www.documentcloud.org/... [documentcloud.org]

        The court order specifically asks for a one off keyed to a single phone, and signed with Apple's key. This isn't something that can be reverse engineered and modified, the signing certificate protects the software from being modified. They also asked them to load it on the phone, in RAM, not on any permanent storage, so it isn't like they wanted access to the act

        • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
          That quote was as testified in public.
          The statement given was for the creation of a method as in "Take this tool and put it on a hard drive". A harddrive ready tool can then be used on any phone of that generation.
          Access was the whole idea, a portable, state and federal ready master key to decrypt any generation of phone before any public state or federal court.
          The tool that was going to be created was a master key able to decrypt generations of cell phones.
          That was the request was for conscripted sof
    • Anything Apple could have done, could have also been done by the FBI hiring another company and by obtaining Apple's source code through a subpoena. Getting Apple to do the work is just simpler and faster.

      • Would you rather the FBI asked for the source code and the signing key, or asked Apple to provide the patch? There seem to be many conspiracy nuts on Slashdot nowadays, so imagine what they would have said if the FBI asked for the code and keys first.

  • The EFF has covered this extensively, and long ago. Read up: https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/... [eff.org]
  • by turkeydance ( 1266624 ) on Wednesday March 30, 2016 @08:01PM (#51811843)
    says the FBI Buyers Club
    • Using the All Writs Act doesn't get you things for free, they still would have had to pay Apple just as they pay for other things like wiretaps.

  • What other wonderful laws from back then can we follow? Fucking idiots.
    • How about we make murder legal, it after all dates back to at least Moses.

      • Murder is legal. It is called an abortion. Or it is called an Army drone kill. Or it is called a State execution. And murder dates back to Cain and Abel. Unless you are stupid enough to be believe you came from a masterbating mudskipper, or some other evolutionary tale of bullshit.
        • I agree, but I was making a point about the age of laws not being really material to how they are used.

  • I mean, to be fair had the founding fathers had any idea of just how terrible drugs are they probably wouldn't have bothered writing the Constitution, right? They were more concerned about petty matters like tyranny, which totally don't even apply today.

    • You mean the drugs the drug companies sell? Or the drugs they were using at the time like cocaine, marijuana, heroin and opium?
      • You mean the drugs the drug companies sell? Or the drugs they were using at the time like cocaine, marijuana, heroin and opium?

        Come now, the DEA says that marijuana is 500000000000000000 times more potent now than 10 years ago! This isn't George Washington's marijuana, this is *dangerous stuff*.

        And you know the DEA wouldn't lie to you to justify their unneeded jobs, right?

  • ... to divulge your own password? Or to at least be compelled to give access to law enforcement?

    If so, what happens when they have security systems that evaluate the state of mind of the person entering, and refuses access if they are under any certain kinds of stress, such as if they were being coerced or forced by someone else to let them in. Could this act be interpreted that a person is compelled to *feel* a certain way about assisting law enforcement, and if they didn't feel that way, they could

  • Ridiculous (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    From a point of an European national living in a "police state" this is ridiculous. Why haven't the Congress enacted laws regulating communications companies related to warrants, national security and emergency circumstances, and technical monitoring made by the police under warrant? Is avoiding public discussion so important for the law enforcement that the rule of law and democracy are starting to rot?

  • I swear Slashdot should change it's name to 'Unlock Apple iPhone'. At least half the content on Slashdot seesm to be devoted to this one topic, in which the entire comments section tells us how fucked up it is. Ok we get it, it's fucked up, can we hold off any more comments until someone has anything new to say?
    • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

      Welcome to the Department of Redundancy Department.

    • This article is about the All Writs Act being used 63 times to force unlocking of phones. You either didn't read the article, or are to simple to understand that this is entirely relevant to technology. In fact slashdot has a section dedicated to your rights online. If this doesn't belong here then why would they have a YRO section? Your ID# indicates you haven't been here long enough to learn how to read the articles, or know that people on slashdot actually do care about rights and liberties getting erode

      • Your ID# indicates you haven't been here long enough to learn how to read the articles

        It'd be extremely naive to think that some people don't have more than one account...

  • Well, if the law is from 1789, clearly they should have to unlock the phone using tools available at the time the law was written. After a few whacks with a hammer, they could have confidently reported back that they were unable to unlock the device.
    • We used wooden mallets back then you insensitive clod!.

      • I was a blacksmith in those days. I had a hammer, you insensitiver clod.
        • Did you hammer out danger?
          Did you hammer out a warning?
          Did you hammer out love between your brothers and your sisters all over this land?
          (Apologies to Lee Hayes & Pete Seeger.)
    • Well, if the law is from 1789, clearly they should have to unlock the phone using tools available at the time the law was written

      By that logic, your speech is only protected if printed or actually spoken — the only means available, when the Bill of Rights [wikipedia.org] was ratified.

      And the Second Amendment only applies to muskets [dailykos.com] (but not to knives and swords [findlaw.com] for some reason).

      • I'm okay with that. It could be argued that word on a screen is considered printed. And Muskets are far less deadly than assault rifles and pistols...
        • by mi ( 197448 )

          It could be argued that word on a screen is considered printed. And Muskets are far less deadly than assault rifles and pistols...

          Muskets are much closer to today's rifles, than a web-server is to a printing press.

          The "deadliness" is irrelevant — the Second Amendment makes no mention of the scale of a weapon. Swords, muskets, and cannon are equally protected by it. But if you insist on using "deadliness" as the criteria for applicability of the Bill of Rights, consider the following:

          Ideas are more p

        • by GuB-42 ( 2483988 )

          And Muskets are far less deadly than assault rifles and pistols...

          Far less deadly for the one who stands where the gun is pointing, far more deadly for anyone else.

  • " There is a lengthy legal precedent, Your Honor, going back to 1789, whereby a defendant may claim self- defense against an agent of the government where the act is shown to be a defense against tyranny, a defense of liberty"

  • Laws that speak in terms of general principles are much more effective than those that are very specific. The more specific the law, the more loopholes there are, and the easier it is to circumvent them with a slightly different technology. Laws that deal with principles might lead to more court interpretation where principles seem to disagree, but they also are longer-lasting in their usefulness.

  • FIFTH amendment.
    Per all suspicions, the purpose of these "warrants" is to gather individuals speech to one another in order to prosecute them (yes, that's texts and emails too says SCOUTS) thus vitiating the right against compelled testimony against ones interests!!
    Who would have thunk the Patriot act meant easier DRUG PROSECUTIONS?

    Pretty much anyone with a brain.
    Thanks Republican'ts!!!
  • Tech companies used to have no problem complying with reasonable intercept requests. The reason was because they knew those intercepts were used for actual law enforcement. Sometime in the last 15 years that changed. Government employees concerned with information awareness now wear two hats: a law enforcement hat, and a geopolitical dominance hat. Until the 21st century, the people wearing those hats worked in different offices. Not anymore. Hayden and Comey have both said essentially the same thing

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