Snowden: U.S. government’s claim it can’t unlock San Bernardino iPhone is ‘bullshit’

“Edward Snowden, the whistleblower whose NSA revelations sparked a debate on mass surveillance, has waded into the arguments over the FBI’s attempt to force Apple to help it unlock the iPhone 5C of one of the San Bernardino shooters,” Samuel Gibbs reports for The Guardian.

“The FBI says that only Apple can deactivate certain passcode protections on the iPhone, which will allow law enforcement to guess the passcode by using brute-force,” Gibbs reports. “Talking via video link from Moscow to the Common Cause Blueprint for a Great Democracy conference, Snowden said: ‘The FBI says Apple has the ‘exclusive technical means’ to unlock the phone. Respectfully, that’s bullshit.'”

Gibbs reports, “Snowden then went on to tweet his support for an American Civil Liberties Union report saying that the FBI’s claims in the case are fraudulent.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Looks like the government’s transparent and despicable attempt to “never let a serious crisis go to waste,” has stirred up a hornet’s nest of righteous and informed opposition.

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

Apple’s Eddy Cue: Next the government will want to turn on your iPhone’s camera or microphone – March 10, 2016
FBI Director James Comey’s war on Apple and privacy is becoming a political problem for Obama and the Democrats – March 9, 2016
How Apple’s clarion call united the entire tech industry against U.S. government overreach – March 8, 2016
Apple CEO Cook decried Obama’s ‘lack of leadership’ on encryption during a closed-door meeting last month – February 29, 2016
Obama administration set to expand sharing of data that N.S.A. intercepts – February 28, 2016
Apple’s fight with U.S. could speed development of devices impervious to government intrusion – February 24, 2016
Petition asks Obama administration to stop demanding Apple create iPhone backdoor – February 19, 2016
Obama administration claims FBI is not asking Apple for a ‘backdoor’ to the iPhone – February 18, 2016
Obama administration wants access to smartphones – December 15, 2015
Obama administration war against Apple just got uglier – July 31, 2015
Obama’s secret attempt to ban cellphone unlocking, while claiming to support it – November 19, 2013

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


  1. It doesn’t matter what technical options there might be, the FBI will always come up with a reason why they are not feasible or acceptable. As far as they are concerned, the only acceptable option is to build them an instrument to defeat the locks on iPhones and no other option is going to be considered.

    Any intelligent person will realise that this case has nothing to do with revealing any terrorist-related data concerning the San Bernardino shootings. It’s all about the FBI establishing a precedent where they can acquire the means to defeat encrypted iPhones and then being able to exploit that precedent.

  2. The various law enforcement, intelligence and security agencies of our governments- Federal, State and Local – want 24/7/365 unrestricted ability to surveil you without probable cause or a warrant. They have been wiping their ass with your privacy rights and systemically undermining them by statute, by secret courts, secret findings by legal counsel, executive orders and secret contracts with private companies that stalk you everywhere.

    The best customers of commercial data miners are government agencies that can buy without restrictions information they could only collect themselves with a court order. Why get a court order or subpoena when you can just buy it? The amount of data collection and digital stalking for profit going on is stunning. Combine various data sources available from private companies and you can assemble a dusurbingly derailed dossier on a person- all without a warrant or probable cause. This has made law enforcement agencies lazy and they want to turn your devices and services into their own private intelligence service all on your dime and without your permission.

    Something also not mentioned is that the same back door that can plant spyware in your device could be used to plant false evidence to incriminate you or discredit you. Just like a dirty cop that plants a few marijuana seeds in your car so they can seize and impound it, the back door into your phone could be used to place illegal content like child pornography or other files to discredit a witness or accuser.

    Congress needs to stop playing all politics all the time and update our laws to clearly define the privacy rights and expectations in the digital age. Similarly, boundaries for government agencies, law enforcement and private data collection need to be clearly outlined and defined.

  3. Snowden knows this how? I mean, is there anything in his background that lends him any credence OR is he vying to be the next Woz?

    Not on the government’s side in this BUT for anyone that says the government COULD hack the phone if they wanted, it just sounds like they’re lying about as much as the government! 🙂

    1. Give us proof Snowden, have someone put something on an iPhone that only they know, then prove to us yo can get to it. I’m sure your Russian buddies will help you out if expertise beyond your abilities is needed. Just give them your instructions.

    2. Maybe because Snowden:

      (1) Worked with the CIA,
      (2) Sent to the technical security school for CIA employees,
      (3) Was contracted with the NSA for hacking/security job tasks, and
      (4) Had high security clearance with the government.

      All good reasons to assume Snowden knows the inner and classified workings of the government.

      1. He was a “contractor” i.e. bottom of the totem pole grunt worker. And, in that job and in the information he’s released, there’s no information that defines any of his work either in mobile encryption decryption OR iOS specialties.

        If he was saying “I know the government can do this because I’ve got documented proof and here it is” (why wouldn’t he leak it, what’s he got to lose?) that’s one thing. However, he’s saying it’s possible in a precise technical way that Apple and others says is not possible. So, either it’s possible BUT for some reason he’s finally found something he’s not willing to leak, OR he just doesn’t want people to forget his name, so just saying the same made up stuff McAfee said.

  4. This does not surprise me but one way or the other, this government is ploughing the rights of the wee people right into the ground. It’s coming to the point where the wee people will either lie down, bend over and take it, or show the world that the wee people of this once great nation are still capable of fighting for their rights.

  5. Snowden needs to return to the United States and face justice. I think he is a traitor, but I promise not to be in the jury. If he’s got something to say, he should say it on US soil. I disagree with apple and the overly commercial way in which they, well, tim cook, has handled the request, but at least it was not cowardly like Snowden’s run for the border.

    I think Tim Cook makes bad decisions. This one may now lead to governments demanding source code for any computerized device sold in their country as a manner of public safety. A quiet no would have work.

    Yes US government has shown great restraint. They could subpoena the source code. They could subpoena the engineers. Overreach, no, the government is not even close to over reaching. They asked for help. Then they followed the law, the constitution by going through the court system, the agency, FBI, then reported to the people of the United States, by reporting to Congress. There is no overreach in that. But had the FBI kicked in the doors of apple in the middle of the night, taken computers, servers, documents, grabbed VPs and shipped them to Cuba, that would be a problem, if done with no warrant.

    Americans can be proud of their government and the way it follows the law. I wrote the following before and I present here again:

    Yes the world is watching, but they only care to the extent that their security is not compromised. US government officials swear to defend and protect. Citizens of the US should be proud of their government for taking this issue up in full public view. Proud that men and women who take that oath take it to heart and do the hard and sometimes disliked jobs.

    In the US, americans, each and every last one of them are the government and that is truly a great thing. Many often forget the “We the people” part, that makes the government part of them and them part of the government. That’s also the part that unites us in war. We goto war as a nation.

    Our neighbors, those that work in a government, deal with the realism of providing that freedom which is so abstract that people argue about who has what freedoms or what freedom is, or what freedom means. It annoys me to no end to hear people belittle those men and women who choose to work for the government. Reagan was wrong, there is no better feeling then to know the United States government is here and stands ready to help you. Words to that effect may have scared him, Reagan, but they make me want to stick out my chest, raise my head a little higher and extend a helping hand to my neighbor.

    1. I agree that most Federal Government workers are good people who are just doing their jobs. My problem is with the folks at the top levels of the CIA, FBI, Pentagon, State Department, etc. They are the ones calling the shots.

  6. Wow, the freedom haters could easily be embarrassed as a result of this revelation. Some kid on YouTube could make a video on how to extract the data using this technique and send the clip to the news organizations. The news organizations could then capture the reactions of people like Feinstein, Trump, etc. when they discover their argument for a backdoor is now mute. Then the news might interview the victims relatives and ask them if they are upset that the technical experts at the FBI and other agencies appear to be dumber than a kid on YouTube.

  7. Anonymous
    It may be technically possible but this technique would still take ages, even with a four digit passcode. It wouldn’t disable the delay that’s built into each wrong code entry. The first four entries are limited to 60ms apart but later entries have a increasing delay built into each attempt. In total 9 wrong entries would take 1 hour and 21 minutes to complete. Multiply that by 1111 (10k/9) tries for a 4 digit code and you get 1500 hours to go thru all the combinations. That’s not counting the time it takes to take out the nand and reflash it. I doubt very much that poor chip would survive over 1000 removals and insertions. Not feasible for every single iPhone they want decrypted. Hence they need help from Apple. I’m surprised Snowden is ignorant of the problem.

  8. Respectfully, Eric Snowden fled to Hong Kong on May 20, 2013. The iPhone 5C in question was announced by Apple on September 10, 2013, almost five months after Snowden fled the country. How in hell could he have knowledge about what the FBI or the NSA could accomplish on an iPhone that was not yet released before he could have documents on it? Now add in the iOS 9 operating system installed on this iPhone which was released more than two years after Snowden fled. There is even less chance he could have any secret knowledge of the FBI’s abilities vis-a-vis iOS 9.

    Snowden is extending his fifteen minutes of fame by capitalizing on his notoriety like John McAfee did. The iPhone 5s and the 5C were already beyond his ken, much less iOS 9. The documents Snowden released relating to Apple were all questionable, referring to possible future developments such as the document relating to developing a future remote software hack to get into the iPhone which carried a date of October 2007, and another referencing Apple being brought into the NSA’s PRISM program but only as an anticipated target date for Apple to join in the future.

  9. Snowden remains an unmitigated asshole and traitor to his country. His sound bites are that of a person desperately seeking to be relevant…when in fact he isn’t. His fifteen minutes of fame have passed him by, unless of course he wants to come back to the states and face his crimes in a court of law.

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