FBI under pressure to reveal the cost of unlocking the San Bernardino iPhone

iphone, fbi, san bernardino
Credit: COBE / Dribble

The media wants to know exactly how much the FBI spent to unlock the notorious iPhone from the San Bernardino case.

BBC reports Associated Press, Vice Media and USA Today-owner Gannett have submitted court filings to force the government to reveal precisely how much it cost to circumvent the defenses of the iPhone handset used by serial killer Syed Rizwan Farook.

Stressing they seek no information that could put national security at risk, the publications claim there is “no adequate justification” to continue to withhold the information.

The FBI has so far refrained from disclosing the security firm(s) and individuals that assisted them in unlocking the infamous iPhone.

According to the legal team representing the news outlets in question, “[w]hile it is undisputed that the vendor developed the iPhone access tool, the government has identified no rational reason why knowing the vendor’s identity is linked in any way to the substance of the tool.”

The lawyers further remark that sharing this information is unlikely to reveal any sensitive details about the possible applications of the hacking tool.

“Release of this information goes to the very heart of the Freedom of Information Act’s purpose, allowing the public to assess government activity… [associated with] a tool that can compromise the digital security of millions of Americans,” they added.

Prior to contracting third-party vendors to crack Farook’s iPhone, Apple was ordered to assist the FBI in unlocking the handset. While the Big A ultimately refused to comply with the order, engaging in a prolonged back-and-forth legal showdown, the FBI found an alternative solution.

FBI Director James Comey eventually commented the agency spent over a million dollars to break into the iPhone, but ultimately found little information that could advance the case – an effort that Comey believed was “worth it” in the end.

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