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