Edit: Maybe someone can answer this question for me.. So from the Snowden leaks, we know the extent of the NSA toolkits and the requirements which need to be met to utilize them. Now we know some of the CIA's capabilities, and after Apple refused to unlock the San Bernardino Shooter's iPhone, we found out the FBI was playing some sort of politics, by claiming that justice might not be served without Apple's intervention, and proceeded to publicly shame the ethical position Apple took. So why on earth was Obama trying to force Apple's hand in that matter? Soon as Apple said no, the FBI somehow found the single magical person willing and able to defeat the privately enhanced security of the shooter's 5S? Makes no sense to me.
The most interesting tool I found in the leaks was the bug that jumps airgap to make Nero burn trojaned binaries. If we see more tools like this come out of the woodwork, it shows that the CIA is at least in some ways keeping their teeth sharp.
I believe that the FBI and Obama both played politics for a few reasons, namely:
- Obama and the FBI probably withheld a reasonable amount of information from each other regarding the case
- This was all a charade to bring the topic into the public sphere. It backfired, but the aim was to allow future high-profile cases on which concurrent evidence trails are harder to establish. Once it backfired, Comey came out with a public letter admonishing the American people, comparing us to children. He stated that with Rule 41 coming into effect, the FBI would use its expanded powers to collect information for the following year. They would then use that information in an upcoming "adult conversation" the FBI wishes to have with the public about the future of open, libre encryption.
We should be expecting that "conversation" to take place this year. And I don't expect it to be much of a dialogue so much as a monologue. I expect the FBI to either directly or indirectly (thru Wikileaks, etc) release information that "proves" that backdoored encryption and its inherent reduced security is necessary for public safety. There is a saying we all know and love about the merits of this particular trade-off
I'm certain the FBI always had that contact on standby. They probably received multiple unprompted bids from various hacking companies during the public run of the case. They wanted to flex how much pull they had over a giant like Apple. Even though they seemingly failed, they came out with a huge data point: The American people need further brainwashing and ideological shifting before attempting a full coup over libre encryption in America.
I hope that things make a little more sense now.
/puts on tinfoil hat
There is also the other option which is that trust in American tech companies has been sketchy at best following the NSA leaks and this was a chance for the Obama administration to allow companies to reestablish some legitimacy when it came to security by making the US government look evil but having the corporations 'prove' that they are not backdoored by the NSA. They can still break in the covert way, but it makes it look tech companies are not as compromised as the NSA leaks would suggest.
they might also used the whole stunt as a way to inform the public that they have the capability so that next time around at the interview goes "look kid, we do have the capability to unlock the phone, but it's costly, nasty, annoying for everyone involved and will put your refusal in a very very bad light in front of the judge and jury, why you don't just give the code and we tell the judge you cooperated?"