What if Osama bin Laden had an iPhone?

In rebuking Apple “for their new smartphone encryption polices on Thursday, FBI Director James B. Comey became the latest law enforcement official to evoke worst-case scenario arguments: What of the child predator, the murderer, the terrorist? Wouldn’t you want police to be able to get into their phones?” Craig Timberg writes for The Washington Post.

MacDailyNews Take: That’s what fear mongers do. They use of fear, scare tactics, to try to influence the opinions and actions of others towards some specific end.

“This type of argument can be brought into even sharper relief by posing the hardest imaginable case: What if the FBI got its hands on Osama bin Laden’s iPhone?” Timberg writes. “Though it requires a stretch of imagination – especially given that SEAL Team Six killed bin Laden in 2011, and he didn’t use a cell phone in his final years – this example illuminates the complicated new legal and technical terrain created by Apple’s decision to release a mobile operating system that is so thoroughly encrypted that the company cannot unlock its devices for police, even if they have a search warrant.”

“It seems likely that a certain, tech-savvy brand of criminal will learn all the tricks – get iOS 8, turn off iCloud backups, use long passcodes and thwart detectives. That’s what made John J. Escalante, Chicago’s chief of detectives say, ‘Apple will become the phone of choice for the pedophile,'” Timberg writes. “Many civil liberties activists, no matter how much they may detest pedophiles, can live with that tradeoff. They want surveillance limited as much as possible, to particular, high-priority cases. They’re happy to have the government get into bin Laden’s iPhone — and into the smartphones used most of the world’s most serious criminals — just not at the price of giving police what amounts to a skeleton key to everyone else’s.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: As we wrote just yesterday:

A note to FBI Director James B. Comey:

Dear lazy bastard,

Stop whining and go read the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution for what sounds like will be the first time in your life.

Again, prior to 2007, there were no evidence bonanzas from warrantless searches and seizures available right in suspects’ pockets and, yet, somehow, law enforcement personnel actually managed to solve crimes without infringing citizen’s basic constitutional rights. Use valid search warrants the way you used them before Steve Jobs gave the world the modern smartphone and tablet.

Let’s go back to following the U.S. Constitution, shall we? If it takes force from leaders like Apple for constitutional rights to be enforced, so be it.

“Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” – Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Edward W.” for the heads up.]

Related articles:
FBI blasts Apple for protective users’ privacy by locking government, police out of iPhones and iPads – September 25, 2014
Apple thinks different about privacy – September 23, 2014
Apple’s iOS Activation Lock reduces iPhone thefts, Samsung phone thefts skyrocket – September 18, 2014
Apple CEO Tim Cook ups privacy to new level, takes direct swipe at Google – September 18, 2014
Apple will no longer unlock most iPhones, iPads for government, police – even with search warrants – September 18, 2014
Would you trade privacy for national security? Most Americans wouldn’t – August 6, 2014
Apple begins encrypting iCloud email sent between providers – July 15, 2014
Obama administration demands master encryption keys from firms in order to conduct electronic surveillance against Internet users – July 24, 2013
U.S. NSA seeks to build quantum computer to crack most types of encryption – January 3, 2014
Apple’s iMessage encryption trips up U.S. feds’ surveillance – April 4, 2013

59 Comments

    1. As the article pointed out, Bin Laden didn’t use a cell phone. And even when they use cell phones, those high-level terrorists/criminals don’t keep the same phone, they use burner phones to handle their communications.

      As I recall, the real treasure trove of information was on a laptop(s) Seal Team Six recovered. Well that can be just as encrypted, or even more so, than a mobile phone.

      As for finding pedophiles, they search online and download most of their material. It’s not like they have a photo studio in their basement, so law enforcement can get warrants to retrieve their search histories from their ISPs, search their computers, etc. It just may take a little more work than guessing a 4 digit passcode.

    2. Apples security features wouldn’t have mattered. No US law enforcement agency ever got close enough to confiscate any phone OBL may or may not have had.

      Plus, if OBL had an iPhone, it might have changed his world view to the point he decided not to be a terrorist. We are shaped by the things in our world.

      OTOH, Apples “no porn apps” policy might have driven him to use Android. There we have it. This whole OBL with an iPhone meme is a red herring with no basis in reality. OBL WAS never going to have an iPhone.

    3. Yes, he is dead and with the fishes. If he had an iPhone, they could have used his dead thumb to unlock the iPhone. So, head shot is good. Just don’t shoot him in the hand. If he never used his thumb, he would still be with the fishes. Nothing changed.

      Note to all. When you know the location, you still know who they called. Just not what was said. Perhaps some other listening device could be used for a while before the final head shot. Old school spy stuff still work.

  1. Unfortunately suspecting a select few amount of people of being a terrorist is not a good reason to make everyone accessible to prying eyes and privacy violations. That’s like saying it would be easier if Osama bin Laden didn’t have a deadbolt on his home door, therefore no one should. Honestly, making everyone vulnerable also allows terrorists easier access to all our data too, and since there are fewer terrorists than normal people, it makes a hell of a lot more sense for everyone to encrypt everything.

    1. Precisely. There is much, MUCH greater likelihood that someone hacks into your phone than we recover a terrorist’s iPhone with his exact plans, cohorts, bank account numbers, and schematics stored in Evernote (even if he doesn’t sync it).

  2. Apple would have written an app called ‘Find My Terrorist’ and triangulae the position to DOD of the phone to a warplane overhead and BOOM, thus allowing Mr. Bin Laden to be enjoying his 72 new friends!

    1. Hey, good point! If the FBI/CIA suspects a high level terrorist has an iPhone, instead of getting a warrant to search the iPhone, they should just get a warrant to have Apple reverse-Find My iPhone so they can locate the guy and arrest him. And if he’s offshore, simply take him to Guantanamo Bay and water board him for his passcode. There, problem solved!

    1. Law enforcement is ALWAYS trying to stretch its reach into areas where it should not be permitted. Just look at NYC’s “Stop and Frisk” policy that was declared unconstitutional. The fact is that if we do not challenge law enforcement’s insistence that they “need” access they should not have, they will grab it and our rights will be reduced.

      I would rather live in a free society where a few people get away with committing crimes than live in a captive society where a few people get away with committing crimes. Because the criminals are always one step ahead in dreaming up new ways to get away with crimes.

    1. Sometimes, Steve, it is extremely appropriate to play the NAZI card. . . and we should, at all times, remember that it stands for National Socialist German Workers’ Party, and it was not at all a right wing analog for conservatives. It most closely resembles today’s party that claims to espouse socialist tendencies and be for the worker. I leave that to you to consider which party that may be. . . and consider which party the workers’ unions’ bosses most support, often at the expense and detriment of their members.

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