FBI Paid More Than $1 Million To Access San Bernardino Shooter's iPhone

Apr 21, 2016
Originally published on April 22, 2016 8:49 am

FBI Director James Comey said Thursday that the federal government paid a steep fee for help accessing data on the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino attackers.

Just how steep?

"Let's see, more than I will make in the remainder of this job which is seven years and four months, for sure," Comey said at a talk at the Aspen Institute in London.

Considering the FBI director makes around $185,000 a year, that means the bureau shelled out more than $1 million for help cracking into the terrorist's iPhone, NPR's Carrie Johnson reports.

She adds that though Comey still isn't saying who helped the government beat Apple's security systems, he said the fee was "worth it."

In the wake of the San Bernardino shootings, the FBI demanded that Apple create a mechanism for accessing data on a locked iPhone. Apple refused, citing concerns about privacy and potential government overreach. As the two sides geared up for a court battle, the Justice Department announced that it had found a third party to help break into the phone. Last month, the FBI said it had accessed the data, so the litigation was set aside.

As we reported at the time, this solution means the case remains unresolved from a legal perspective:

"The end of this legal standoff also means that no legal precedent gets set for the scope of government's power to compel an unwilling company to cooperate in an investigation, for instance by writing special new software as in Apple's case.

" 'It remains a priority for the government to ensure that law enforcement can obtain crucial digital information to protect national security and public safety, either with cooperation from relevant parties or through the court system when cooperation fails,' DOJ's [Melanie] Newman said. 'We will continue to pursue all available options for this mission, including seeking the cooperation of manufacturers and relying upon the creativity of both the public and private sectors.' "

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