FBI Won't Tell Me How Much It Paid To Break Into Syed Farook's iPhone, Saying It Might Jeopardize Its Investigation

from the say-what-now? dept

As you probably recall, several months ago, after going to court to try to force Apple to write some software to allow the FBI to hack into Syed Farook’s work iPhone, the DOJ and FBI abruptly called off the case, claiming that it had been able to get an exploit that let it into the phone. A few weeks later, FBI Director James Comey suggested that the government paid over $1.2 million to get that exploit from some “hackers.” Some later news reports indicated that the FBI quietly tried to talk down those numbers, and suggested that perhaps Comey was just bad at math (rather than name a number, he said that the FBI had paid “more than I will make in the remainder of this job, which is seven years and four months….”).

Either way, I sent a FOIA request into the FBI that day asking for either the invoice or any other documentation showing how much the FBI had paid to get into Farook’s work iPhone. The FBI has now rejected my FOIA request, arguing that since this is an “ongoing investigation,” responding to such a request might somehow “interfere” with the case.

This is complete hogwash, for a variety of reasons. First, Farook is dead. Second, what investigation is there left to do? We know that Farook and his wife shot up Farook’s office party and killed a bunch of people. We also know that the FBI was so unconcerned about further investigation that it allowed reporters to ransack Farook’s townhouse soon after the shooting. Third, how the hell would revealing the price impact the investigation? The answer is that it will not. There is nothing in saying “it cost us $1 million” or “it cost us $653,000” or whatever, that in any way interferes with whatever investigation remains to be done.

This is nothing more than the FBI doing what the FBI frequently does with FOIA requests. Denying them because the FBI doesn’t want to answer.

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Comments on “FBI Won't Tell Me How Much It Paid To Break Into Syed Farook's iPhone, Saying It Might Jeopardize Its Investigation”

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Anonymous Coward says:

It's the Principal of the thing...

Just like a child should never question their parents…

The citizens should never question its government or its agency.

Anyone that has yet to be corrupted with political bias can easily discover these things to be a sign that corruption is “IN FACT” present.

A parent that does not explain their actions to a child is corrupt the same as a government that does not explain itself to its citizens.

So what can be done when corruption is 100% evident yet nothing is being done? Now you are getting the idea…

Oblate (profile) says:

Maybe it went something like this:

FBI Agents to FBI Middleman: Find us a hack for this iPhone.

Hacker to FBI Middleman: Hey, I’ve got a hack for that iPhone, it’s yours for $100k.
FBI Middleman to Hacker: It’s a deal!

FBI Middleman (and secret kickback specialist) to FBI Brass: I’ve got a hack for that iPhone, it’s yours for $1.2M.
FBI Brass to FBI Middleman: It’s a deal!

FBI Agents: Yay, kickbacks!

Of course they can’t release the exact amount paid, it would certainly get back to someone who would cause trouble.

Anonymous Coward says:


“how the hell would revealing the price impact the investigation?”

If they get a conviction (of eg alleged accomplices or co-conspirators or anybody who looked at them funny), the cost of the hack was 1.99 and the FBI is ace hackerz.

If they get handed an acquittal (for the same alleged …) the cost of the hack was 1.9 billion and they will launch a case for wasting law enforcement time and a civil suit demanding penalties, reparations and damages of 1.9 billionz plus interest and dry-cleaning bills, for hurt feelings and being made fun of (and looked at funny).

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Works for the mafia, works for the FBI

“It’s like this see, you can work with us ‘voluntarily‘, or we can go get a ruling from some pals of ours, which you may or may not be allowed to see but won’t be able to talk about that will make you work for us, and trust me, if we have to go get that ruling we are not going to be happy. And if we’re not happy, you are most certainly not going to be happy either. Got it?”

Anonymous Coward says:

If it was a stupendous ammount, they’d argue if was well worth it.

Others might say, stop spending our money, supposedly, on stupid fucking bullshit chirlish games that will continually have nations at eachothers throats as was and still is to some degree, the cold war

One nation takes the liberty, and others follow suit in order to retaliate as a form of defence, like perpetual war and violence if feeds itself on its own self sustaining battery……..no matter what happens, we all loose, and yet again, we have to live in a world where governments introduce something into the world that has the potential to cause some serious harm

You have to start asking yourself, is it better for bad things to happen on a local level, or to have that magnified by a governments resources and make it a global level…………..a government is not some divine written on stone destiny, there are literally countless possibilities on how a government can and should be………i dont have a problem with a human right government……i do have a problem with an hypocritical corrupt one though

With the resources available in such positions, the bar to entry is pittifully low, and id argue, corrupt

Goddamit government, your suppose to be the best of us

freedomfan (profile) says:

They don't want the amount known because they learned nothing from the phone

The fact that they don’t want the cost to unlock the phone known at all makes me suspect that they got very little useful evidence from the phone.

Consider: If it was a large amount and they got no further significant leads from the unlocked phone, then they look like idiots for trying to bully Apple into unlocking it. And, it would contradict their narrative that the sky will fall if they don’t have all the data all the time. And, important FBI allies like Feinstein and Burr are re-exposed as idiots for using this as an example in their currently-comatose proposal to outlaw secure (non-backdoored) encryption. Those results mean the cost stays covered-up as long as they can fight off the FOIA requests/suits.

On the other hand, they would be happy to release the amount to unlock the phone if they got some great evidence from the phone that they didn’t have otherwise. Even if it was millions of dollars, that would only bolster their claim that they don’t have the expertise to do this kind of unlocking and they need a back door because getting such critical evidence is prohibitively expensive without it.

So, in all likelihood, they spent a lot of our money and – surprise! – got zilch. No one at the DOJ wants to write that press release.

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