by Tim Cushing

Filed Under:
fbi, foia, iphone, iphone hack, redactions

FBI Releases A Stack Of Redactions In Response To FOIA Request For Info On Its Purchased iPhone Hack

from the nothing-in-here-you-haven't-not-seen-before dept

As the result of an FOIA lawsuit brought by the Associated Press, USA Today, and Vice, the FBI has finally released documents about the one-time iPhone exploit/hack it purchased from an unknown foreign vendor. Well, more accurately, the FBI released a bunch of paper with nearly nothing left unredacted, as USA Today's Brad Heath pointed out multiple times on Twitter.

Among the things the FBI withheld are the non-disclosure agreement it signed with the company, the vendor's clear air and water certification, the date it was given approval to purchase the exploit, and pretty much anything else the FBI felt it could cover with white space and variations of the letter "b."

Here's USA Today's summary of what was left unredacted.

Friday's data release included dozens of pages of contracting boilerplate but no information about the source of the exploit or its cost. The FBI indicated in the records that both of those details are classified. FBI Director James Comey intimated during a public forum last year that the price was more than $1 million.

The documents did show that after the FBI’s clash with Apple became public, at least three other companies expressed interest in cracking the phone, even though none of them had by that point started developing a tool that would have allowed them to do so.

The last part shows there's no shortage of "smart people" willing to help solve James Comey's encryption problems, even if these solutions might only work one time and be far more expensive than the precedential court decisions and/or favorable legislation Comey is seeking.

In all fairness to the FBI, the public received about as much useful information from this document release as the FBI received from its pricey, one-time phone cracking. A long list of FOIA exemptions were used to justify even boilerplate like clean air/water compliance, which is par for the course when the FBI feels its methods and techniques might be made public.

If these redactions are challenged, the FBI is going to have a fun time explaining why it couldn't even release the price of the exploit, much less large chunks of the standard contractual language it deploys when working with private companies -- whether they're cracking open iPhones or supplying toner cartridges.

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