630 Discussion

This unit primarily focused on Signals Intelligence (SIGINT), especially within the Law Enforcement and Intelligence Communities. We discussed the importance of SIGINT to our national security and law enforcement communities, especially in the war against terrorism and organize criminal enterprises. With the advances in technology, specifically regarding handheld communications devices such as the iPhone, we witnessed a high-profile clash between the United States Government’s national security interest and those of the Apple Corporation.

In December 2, 2015, Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, were killed during a shootout with the police after Syed and Tashfeen shot and killed 14 of Syed’s co-workers during a Christmas Party in San Bernardino, CA. During the subsequent FBI investigation of Syed’s radicalization and possible terrorist connections, the FBI approached Apple corporate officials to assist in the investigation by helping the FBI gain access to any records intelligence/evidence contained on Syed’s iPhone. Apple refused. The DOJ sued Apple in federal court to coerce them in cooperating with the FBI. The FBI believed that Apple executives were impeding this national security investigation and potential providing aid to terrorists. Apple countered that the government overstepped its authority and had no right to force a private company to give up its security codes and create a backdoor that could potentially evade the data privacy of all iPhone customers. The judge initially ordered Apple to comply. As the case was still proceeding, this issue became moot when the FBI hired an “outside” consultant to access the iPhone, thus resulting in the Department of Justice withdrawing the lawsuit.
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Given what you know at this stage about intelligence collection, especially as it pertains to SIGINT, if you were the Federal Judge who had to decide the above case, what would be your position and why?

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