Apple sees weakness in FBI’s last-minute hearing request

“A last-minute request by the FBI to call witnesses to next week’s court hearing in the San Bernardino iPhone case indicates the agency might feel some weakness in its legal arguments, Apple said,” Martyn Williams reports for IDG News Service.

“On Wednesday evening, the FBI asked for an evidentiary hearing, which means the court will hear live testimony from expert witnesses from both sides,” Williams reports. “Apple agreed to the FBI’s request on Thursday.”

“Speaking on Friday with reporters, lawyers for Apple said the FBI’s request was a surprise, and they don’t understand why the government wants to present witnesses to the court,” Williams reports. “If lawyers believe they have a strong legal case, they typically want to argue it without bothering with witnesses in these types of hearings, so the request may indicate that the FBI isn’t as comfortable as it was in relying solely on legal arguments, an Apple lawyer said.”

Read more in the full article here.

“Those witnesses will include Eric Neuenschwander, Apple’s head of product security and privacy, who can speak to the company’s security measures and the feasibility of the government’s proposed system,” Russell Brandom reports for The Verge. “Neuenschwander filed a declaration to the court on Tuesday, which argued the government’s order would potentially endanger the Trusted Platform Module system used throughout the industry, including specific systems built by Tesla and Microsoft.”

“Neuenschwander also argued the existence of GovtOS could impact the personal safety of Apple employees,” Brandom reports. “‘Those employees, if identified, could themselves become targets of retaliation, coercion, or similar threats by bad actors seeking to obtain and use GovtOS for nefarious purposes,’ he wrote. ‘I understand that such risks are why intelligence agencies often classify the names and employment of individuals with access to highly sensitive data and information.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Here’s to the FBI getting a legal boot in the teeth.

The FBI has a big ulterior motive in its war against privacy and Apple’s encrypted iPhone – March 18, 2016
The law is clear: The FBI cannot make Apple rewrite iOS – March 18, 2016
Apple engineers, if ordered to unlock iPhone, might resist – March 17, 2016
Apple’s Tim Cook on FBI fight: ‘No one’s going dark’ – March 17, 2016
Harvard Law professor and former Obama special assistant dismisses FBI’s claims – March 17, 2016
Apple: The law already exists that protects us from U.S. government demands to hack iPhone – February 26, 2016


  1. That the FBI could not figure out the danger to Apple employees on the development of such a dangerous tool, shows severe lack of imagination on their part.

    In fact, the 22.5 million names of hacked government employees that happened last year floating out there in the internet darklands, along with the keys the FBI is asking to build, puts some of their own people in danger.

    Again. Severe lack of imagination.

    1. Oh god here we go. “Go get em Apple!” “Kick their butt Apple!”

      Everybody is stupid. Everyone’s an idiot. Only people who love Apple and eat up their PR are sane.

      This is just more PR from Apple… This is all that’s needed from this article: “an Apple lawyer said.” Right, of course an Apple lawyer is going to try and say these things.

      1. To assume that the FBI has a weakened case and is doing this because of that is absurd. They’re doing what they need to do to get a favourable ruling. Nice PR move Apple Law.
      2. Another “If” argument. IF the employees get identified. First, they won’t get identified. That argument is doomed to failure. No court would believe that these people would be identified. The probability of that happening would have to be absolutely proven out, and the probability would need to meet a certain threshold. And the, it must be proven out what harm would come to them. So hypothetical and far out there. It’s also ridiculous. How many engineers at Microsoft, Google, Apple, etc… have worked on systems where, if exploited, could expose everyone to having their data taken? Lots. But they don’t say that they’re worried about being “exposed”. What a BS argument.

      1. MDN can always point out slippery slope & speculative arguments from people it doesn’t like, but when Apple does the same thing, the fanbois here just can’t get enough.

        Every single paragraph is speculation made to fill a webpage taken from an Apple press release, nothing more.

        “the agency might”
        “lawyers for Apple said the FBI’s request was a surprise, and they don’t understand…”
        “if lawyers believe..”
        “the request may indicate”
        “Apple lawyers said they hoped”

        MDN, your bias in cherry-picking pro-Apple reports isn’t just showing as usual, it’s blinding everyone in your little cave. If you want to understand how things work, you have to inform yourself with news reports from all sides of an issue. Like this:

        “Takeaways. Almost every speaker in the hearing agreed that a national debate on these issues was necessary and that Congress was the appropriate forum in which to have it. Apple, in opposing the application for an order under the AWA, has staked out the position that the current framework of law is an insufficient expression of a national consensus on this topic. Others characterized Apple’s action as having predetermined that striking of the balance in favor of total privacy. Whatever the truth of this characterization, as it stands, the federal government cannot access iPhones utilizing these security features whatever its authority to do so. Technologists such as Professor Landau would argue that such a lack of capability is necessary protection against myriad third parties and that granting the government’s desired access would fatally undermine that protection. The resolution of these seemingly intractably opposed values remains subject to further debate but look for affirmative action by Congress in this matter.”

        1. Reality Check:

          You’re right. The reason I come on here is to confront fanboys. I’m sure there’s a small few that have become unfanboys after reading my counterbalancing comments. Just one or two maybe.

          There’s a significant problem in society when people blindly follow corporations and also let them dictate social policy and law.

          To drive the point home about how absurd Apple’s argument is here. There argument is as thus:

          WHEREAS Apple Employees who work on this Order may have a certain know how that COULD be useful to terrorists in terms of cracking iPhones. IF an employee is identified, then their personal security MAY be threatened.

          NOW THEREFORE: No Apple employee should work on this because there is a POSSIBILITY they may be identified.

          The premises are loaded with speculative hypotheticals with no quantitative analysis and evidence.

          And in this argument, no employee at Apple should ever have to work on any security features of the iPhone whatsoever for fear of these people getting identified. And while we’re at it, the Lead Security Enigneer on iCloud shouldn’t have to work on security either. So he can just sit and stare at the wall.

          And also now that there’s this sort of broad brush precedent Apple paints, no employee of other companies working on security of technology with know how that MAY be useful to boogie men should have to work on those things.

          And the real clincher here. Apple’s argument here would have you believe that no employee at Apple and even past employees have the know how useful to terrorists.

          The engineers who implemented the guard dog on the iPhone in 2014 have done precisely the kind of work that Apple is saying here would put workers in harms way. Apple “cares” about employees now? Right.

          No Apple doesn’t care. They’re advancing weak and illogical arguments to advance their own interests.

          1. So fandriod dude, you are here to bitch to people who like Apple products. ,,,
            What a stupid waste of ,,,,, our time.
            It’s pretty clear where you are coming from so I would just wish you a good day and to suggest you vote for Trump!!!

      2. Apple’s interest to protect the consumer is the same as Google’s, Microsoft’s, and pretty much every other tech company in existence.

        If we lose our security, then pretty much all technology companies are screwed as well as their customers.

        It’s bad enough we have to fight off hackers, phishers, and virus writers. We shouldn’t have to fight off our own government.

    1. Maybe, but they just shot themselves in the foot…
      Last but one paragraph:
      “Pluhar’s assertions and technical expertise have already come under fire. In his declaration, Pluhar said he viewed an iCloud settings screen on a device used in attempts to restore Farook’s iCloud backup, noting that auto-backups for “Mail,” “Photos” and “Notes” were “turned off.”

      Neuenschwander in an attachment to Apple’s final brief said Pluhar was probably looking at the wrong screen. The settings menu for iCloud backups does not offer this level of granularity; there is no “on” and “off” option for “Mail,” “Photos” and “Notes,” he said.”
      Which pretty much is an admission that they had the phone unlocked since that’s where those options are, in Settings.
      Dumb fscks

      1. And then there’s another story that the FBI is warning car manufacturers that their car security systems should be beefed up to prevent safety concerns via malicious hackers !!
        You couldn’t make this stuff up.

  2. ‘Those employees, if identified, could themselves become targets of retaliation, coercion, or similar threats by bad actors seeking to obtain and use GovtOS for nefarious purposes,’ he wrote.
    Not only employees, also the wives, husbands, children of Apple workers. Also, Apple could lose important employees who didn’t want they, or their families, to be at risk. Apple hiring could be affected by people choosing to avoid risk.

  3. If the FBI can read, they know from the massive barrage of articles pointing out the fallacy of their assertions against Apple and are freaking out. This is the fortification of an already conquered fort. All that’s left is to make a good show out of it. Wave at We The People and smile!

  4. only a few lines of code at the most would need to be changed, more than that, hmm, maybe even just 1 line would need to be changed.

    #define maxNumberOfLoginAttempts 10

    int attemptedLogins ;

    while (attemptedLogins < maxNumberOfLoginAttempts)
    // enter password

    changed code below:

    while ( 1 )
    // enter password

    i don't believe they have to rewrite the OS. recompile, yes.
    push it to the iPhone, with apple's sig., yes.

    rewrite the os, no.

      1. Ron, you do realize i don’t mean this exact code, don’t you.

        i would expect that apple would place a compiled program on the phone like they normally do. i know you don’t think in order to patch a bug or a security hole apple rewrites the entire os. somehow they push those updates out to phones all over the world, i’m sure they have a way to push it to an iPhone in the same building, in the same room. developers load software on the phone all the time, though i suspect not at the level which apple loads the os.

        even apple has to test their code, they don’t rewrite the entire os when they find small bugs or want to make small changes and they seem to get the program on the phone.

        perhaps, the best solutions is the FBI to seek the code, and the assistance to put the code on the iPhone in question. so they could ask apple for the code, apple will say no, then the FBI will follow proper procedures, and seek a court order to get the code, then it’s in the hands of the court. if the FBI has a problem understanding the code they could ask apple to explain the code, apple will say, no. the FBI may then go back to court looking a motion to compel, probably…

        there is no over reach in following proper legal procedures for warrants and subpoenas and the constitution requires the government to do so. a judge must decide that the warrant sought is without cause, or a fishing expedition, or etc.

        The apple engineer testifying may say “we have to change one line of code and push to the phone with a signature the phone recognizes as a valid update from apple, maybe tops two hours, two hours cause we need to make it look hard”.

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