Thursday, March 31, 2016

Why Do the Feds Usually Try to Unlock Phones? It’s Drugs, Not Terrorism

On Tuesday the ACLU released the results of its digging through court records, seeking information about any cases in which the feds had used the All Writs Act to ask that Apple or Google assist in accessing data on locked phones or tablets. It found that since 2008, there have been at least 63 of those cases across the country, showing that Apple’s standoff with the FBI was about more than “one iPhone,” as FBI director Jim Comey had argued. And in the two-thirds of those cases in which the ACLU could determine the crime being investigated, the group tells WIRED that 41 percent were related to drugs, far more than any other category of crime. “The narrative was that they would only do this in cases where the crimes were particularly severe and a serious threat to national security, and that seems to be disproven,” says Ezekiel Edwards, the director of the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project. “I’m certainly displeased to find that so many of these cases in which the government has forced companies to unlock phones have been drug cases. But I’m not surprised.”1

Of the total of 41 cases in which the ACLU could determine the crime that caused the Department of Justice to demand access to a device, 17 were related to drugs, compared to just one known case of terrorism: the San Bernardino case. In fact, those 17 cases by far outnumbered the 10 financial crime cases, eight child pornography cases, and three counterfeiting cases, the next most common crimes on the ACLU’s list. (The ACLU explains that in the third of cases where the ACLU couldn’t identify the crime being investigated, the government hadn’t revealed the docket number of the related court filing that reveals the charges, or because the cases were sealed.)

http://www.wired.com/2016/03/feds-usually-try-unlock-phones-drugs-not-terrorism/

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