The story of the FBI’s efforts to access the iPhone 5c in its San Bernardino terrorism investigation may seem like it’s over – and has been over for weeks, following the agency dropping its efforts to force Apple to help break into the phone – but the story keeps going strong. And why wouldn’t it? This one has it all: technology, civil liberties, national security – we could go on. And even with the meat of the story wrapped up, we’re continuing to learn more and more about how this all went down. Last week we got our first sense of just how much the FBI paid for access to whatever secret hack was used to ultimately crack the iPhone 5c’s security, as Director James Comey claimed the figure was in excess of his FBI salary to date – north of $1.2 million. But now the feds are saying that Comey was way off there, and that the government paid under a million for the hack.
How much under? Like so much else about this story, the precise details are obscured by a frustratingly worthless layer of secrecy – all we’re told now is that this “above one million” figure floating around – the one calculated from information clearly provided by Comey himself – is wrong.
But what are we really looking at, then? $900K? $800K? The only other official statement we’ve heard is Comey saying the FBI “paid a lot” for access to the phone.
Considering the lack of leads the data on the phone has ultimately generated, combined with the FBI’s unwillingness to actually come up with a precise figure, it’s not difficult to come to the conclusion that we’re talking about a number that’s still embarrassingly high.