By John Gruber
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FBI seized the phone of former President Donald Trump’s election attorney John Eastman last week, according to a new court filing from the conservative lawyer. Last Wednesday, about six federal investigators approached Eastman in New Mexico when he was exiting a restaurant after dinner with his wife and a friend, according to the court filings. He was patted down, and “forced to provide [facial] biometric data to open” the phone, Eastman’s court filing said.
Agents were able to get access to Eastman’s email accounts on his iPhone 12 Pro, the filings said.
CNN posted a copy of Eastman’s court filing, which contains the original warrant as an attachment. From the warrant:
During the execution of the search of the authorized places, law enforcement personnel are also specifically authorized to obtain from the Subjects (but not any other individuals present at the time of execution of the warrant) the compelled display of any physical biometric characteristics (such as fingerprint/thumbprint, facial characteristics, or iris display) necessary to unlock any device(s) requiring such biometric access subject to seizure pursuant to this warrant for which law enforcement has reasonable suspicion that the aforementioned person(s)’ physical biometric characteristics will unlock the device(s), to include pressing fingers or thumbs against and/or putting a face before the sensor, or any other security feature requiring biometric recognition of any of the devices, for the purpose of attempting to unlock the device(s)’s security features in order to search the contents as authorized by this warrant.
While attempting to unlock the device by use of the compelled display of biometric characteristics pursuant to this warrant, law enforcement is not authorized to demand that the aforementioned person(s) state or otherwise provide the password or identify the specific biometric characteristics (including the unique finger(s) or other physical features), that may be used to unlock or access the device(s). Nor does the warrant authorize law enforcement to use the fact that the warrant allows law enforcement to obtain the display of any biometric characteristics to compel the aforementioned person(s) to state or otherwise provide that information. However, the voluntary disclosure of such information by the aforementioned person(s) is permitted. To avoid confusion on that point, if agents in executing the warrant ask any of the aforementioned person(s) for the password to any device(s), or to identify which biometric characteristic (including the unique finger(s) or other physical features) unlocks any device(s), the agents will not state or otherwise imply that the warrant requires the person to provide such information, and will make clear that providing any such information is voluntary and that the person is free to refuse the request.
That this story broke the same day I published a piece explaining how to hard-lock an iPhone to disable Face ID and Touch ID authentication until the device passcode has been entered, is rather amazing. I was inspired to post that yesterday in light of privacy concerns stemming from the Supreme Court’s repeal of abortion rights in America, but the situation I described — that law enforcement can force you to use your fingerprints or face to unlock a device, but cannot force you to reveal your passcode — is perfectly exemplified by the warrant against Eastman.
Watching the video of Eastman’s iPhone being confiscated, it’s possible he had no opportunity to hard-lock the device even if he’d known how to. The video Eastman gave to Fox News starts with him with his hands already on his head, and an FBI agent frisking him, finding the phone in a belt holster, and taking it.
★ Tuesday, 28 June 2022