Looks like Liberty Safes have a Bub Light PR problem.
If you haven’t followed the story, here is a brief synopsis. The FBI arrested a J6 suspect during a recent street jump. They also executed a search warrant on his residence. During the search they discovered a gun safe. Unable to open it for obvious reasons, they contacted the company, provided them with a copy of the search warrant and Liberty then provided the FBI with a back-door code to allow them to gain access to it.
The fact that Liberty Safe freely provided a back-door access combination to the safe caused a giant shit story with the 2A crowd.
Liberty then attempted to explain their actions with the following statement.
That caused only more of a stir.
Then all the YouTubers and talking heads on TV gave their two cents. Now I’ll give mine.
During my time as a detective in a Computer Crime Unit, we executed several search warrants. During those warrants we confiscated hundreds of computers so that they could be examined for evidence. You see, safes and computers share similarities. They are both repositories of confidential and important information for their owners. Both are usually secured with a combination or password to limit access.
In this case, Liberty, upon a request by the FBI, provided the combination. They stated it was because they were provided with a valid warrant allowing the FBI access to the information inside.
Well, that’s now quite how things are supposed to work.
Search warrants to exclusive to the property or person to be searched. When you obtain one, you must be specific as to the exact location the warrant gives the government is allowed to search, exactly what types of items are being looked for and where those items are expected to be found.
For items like safes and computers, there are usually secondary steps that are required to obtain access to the information within. At Scottsdale we considered these types of items as having a secondary level of privacy.
For safes we used two methods. If we were unable to force entry into the safes and had to obtain help from the manufacturer, we either obtain a secondary subpoena or search warrant for the safe and then served the manufacturer with it to compel the company to provided information which would allow us to access it. This protected both the company and us.
Same with computers. If they were protected with a password or encryption, we worked with companies like Microsoft or Apple, through a subpoena or search warrant, to provide a password or bypass the encryption.
What we did not do was use the original search warrant, which only applied to the building, home or location stipulated in the search warrant as a tool to also compel another company to provide us with access information. This is what Liberty is telling their customers happened in this case.
They had no legal requirement to provide the FBI the combination to the safe based on the original search warrant for the residence in this case. They could, and should have, told them to go pound sand and asked for a secondary authorization, either a subpoena or warrant, which compelled Liberty to provide the information.
You know when else something like this happened. After the Riverside, CA terrorist attack in 2015. After the attack law enforcement obtained the iPhone of the terrorist and his wife. Apple was served with a search warrant for the iPhone and told to assist the FBI in unlocking it. Apple refused. This turned into a prolonged legal battle that Apple fought successfully.
In fact, lessons learned from this incident made Apple resign the iPhone so that the company retained no information from an iPhone on their servers which could be subpoenaed to assist law enforcement in unlocking their devices. Now, all password and security information on one of their devices is saved locally to the phone and now shared with Apple. Or so they say. Nevertheless, access was eventually gained into the Riverside shooter’s devices with the help of another company and their method remains a relatively easy, but expensive way to brut force access to an Apple device. It’s referred to today as Greykey.
Regardless of if you think Liberty Safes should or should not have provided the FBI with the back-door combination to the safe in this case, I can tell you through my training and experience, the company had no legal requirement to provide it without a secondary subpoena or warrant directed at the company, compelling them to provide it.
I have a feeling Liberty is going to get the Bub Light treatment. And I think they should. Know your customers. If your customers expect a company to represent a certain ethos, in this case privacy, then don’t work against your customers’ expectations.
I know I would never purchase a Liberty safe now, if for no other reason than the information provided to the FBI, which was probably a master code to access their products, will be leaked and become public knowledge thieves will be able to use it easily open their products.