The Associated Press, Vice Media and Gannett, the parent company of USA Today, sued the FBI today in an attempt to uncover information about how the law enforcement agency was able to unlock an iPhone used by Syed Farook, one of the San Bernardino shooters.
The Justice Department initially sought to force Apple to create custom software that would allow the device to be unlocked, but dropped its case when a third party found a way to break into the phone without Apple’s assistance. The case sparked widespread debate about encryption, with politicians including President Obama arguing for exceptional access to encrypted devices for law enforcement and tech leaders like Apple CEO Tim Cook saying that attempts to roll back encryption would cause broad harm to cybersecurity.
USA Today, the AP, and Vice requested information about the exploit the FBI purchased to unlock the phone under the Freedom of Information Act. Their requests were denied by the FBI, leading to the lawsuit filed today.
The FOIA requests asked for “basic contracting information” on the exploit, which the suit refers to as one of the FBI’s “most publicly-discussed and controversial acquisitions.” FBI director James Comey suggested the exploit was purchased by the bureau for close to $1 million, but has not provided details on the exact purchase amount nor the seller.