Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Snowden speaks at the Common Cause Blueprint for a Great Democracy conference. (Screenshot)

Snowden Calls "Bullshit" on FBI's Claim It Needs Apple to Unlock iPhone

NSA whistleblower says 'global technological consensus is against the FBI'

Nadia Prupis

The FBI's claim that it cannot break into the iPhone of one of the suspected San Bernardino shooters without Apple's help is "bullshit," according to National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Speaking during a democracy conference via a live video feed from Moscow on Tuesday, Snowden said, "The FBI says Apple has the 'exclusive technical means' to unlock the phone. Respectfully, that's bullshit."

On Twitter, he added, "The global technological consensus is against the FBI," linking to a blog post by ACLU technology fellow Daniel Kahn Gillmor explaining how one of the bureau's biggest claims in the iPhone case—that Apple must disable the "auto-erase" feature, which wipes data from devices after 10 failed passcode attempts, before agents can try to break into it—is fraudulent.

Gillmor writes:

[T]he truth is that even if this feature is enabled on the device in question, the FBI doesn't need to worry about it, because they can already bypass it by backing up part of the phone (called the “Effaceable Storage”) before attempting to guess the passcode. [....]

[The FBI is] deliberately misleading the public (and the judiciary) to try to gain these powers. This is not how a trustworthy agency operates. We should not be fooled.

The third annual Blueprint for a Great Democracy conference, organized by the political watchdog group Common Cause, featured Snowden among numerous human rights advocates, journalists, and activists. The conference, in its second day on Wednesday, is being livestreamed here.

Apple senior executives said in February that the FBI had a chance to access the data in Syed Farook's phone if agents had not instructed San Bernardino officials to reset his iCloud password, which prompted an auto-backup that rendered the information "permanently inaccessible."

The tech company and the intelligence agency will face off again in California federal court later this month.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'This Cannot Happen': Biden DHS Seeks Contractor for Migrant Detention Center at Guantánamo Bay

The solicitation for bids—which requires some guards who speak Spanish and Haitian Creole—comes as the administration is under fire for mass deportations of migrants, including thousands of Haitians.

Jessica Corbett ·


Global Vaccine Goals 'Fall Terribly Short' Due to Big Pharma and Rich Nations' Greed: Experts

"Wealthy nations are using up the world's vaccine supply, and developing nations are suffering and losing thousands of people every day."

Brett Wilkins ·


11 Senators Support House Progressives' Push to Pass Full Biden Agenda

"We voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill with the clear commitment that the two pieces of the package would move together along a dual track."

Jessica Corbett ·


Ex-Prisoners Recall US Torture at 'Afghanistan's Abu Ghraib'

"It is psychologically hard for me to recall all that was happening," said one former Bagram Air Base inmate. "The torture was mostly done by Afghans, sometimes the Americans. But the orders came from the U.S."

Brett Wilkins ·


Rapid Shift to Electric Vehicles Could Create Over 150,000 Jobs in US by 2030

A new report says "smart" pro-labor policies by lawmakers would transform the "inevitable" shift to EVs "into a new beginning for U.S. producers and the rebuilding of a foundation for good jobs."

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo