National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden on Tuesday had harsh words regarding the FBI’s claim that only Apple can break into the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino, Calif., terrorists.
“Respectfully, that’s horses---,” the former government contractor said during a conference hosted by liberal advocacy group Common Cause.
The FBI has been aware of hardware attacks “since the '90s” that could gain access to otherwise locked information on Syed Rizwan Farook’s phone, Snowden said via a Google hangout from Russia, where he has been living to evade federal charges for leaking government secrets.
He later added in a post on Twitter that the “global technological consensus is against the FBI.”
As one example, Snowden linked to an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) blog post alleging that the FBI can “easily work around” a security mechanism on the iPhone.
“The FBI wants us to think that this case is about a single phone, used by a terrorist,” ACLU technology fellow Daniel Kahn Gillmor wrote in the post. “But it's a power grab.”
Justice Department lawyers have refuted the point in legal filings, and FBI Director James Comey has backed up the claim on Capitol Hill.
“If we could have done this quietly and privately, we would have done it,” he testified on Capitol Hill earlier this month.
Snowden, a frequent antagonist of U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies, has previously defended Apple in its opposition to the FBI request.
On Tuesday, he claimed that the company’s insistence on strong digital protections was “a good example” of technology’s ability to flip the script on government officials.
“The FBI would not be as pissed off as they are if it was not effective,” he said.