According to documents obtained by CNET
, the DEA is upset because the encryption used by Apple's iMessage foils their ability to snoop on those communications. Even with a warrant (increasingly seen as optional these days by law enforcement and intelligence agencies) and the fact that carriers let the NSA snoop on everything in real time
, "it is impossible to intercept iMessages between two Apple devices."
Well not entirely impossible; the memo notes that sometimes interception is possible, but it would require the government to conduct man in the middle attacks using spoofed cell towers, something the feds just got busted for using for years without properly informing Judges
Encryption isn't particularly hard, but as an ACLU analyst in the CNET piece points out, most companies and providers don't put any effort into it:
Christopher Soghoian, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union, said yesterday that "Apple's service is not designed to be government-proof." "It's much much more difficult to intercept than a telephone call or a text message" that federal agents are used to, Soghoian says. "The government would need to perform an active man-in-the-middle attack... The real issue is why the phone companies in 2013 are still delivering an unencrypted audio and text service to users. It's disgraceful."
The government has been pushing for years to have wiretap and privacy laws like CALEA changed
to provide them with easier access to encrypted services like Gmail.