Justice Department: Apple obligated to assist FBI – USA TODAY
WASHINGTON Ã¢Â€Â”Ã‚Â The Justice Department asserted Thursday that Apple Inc., has sought to advance “false” arguments that threaten privacy breaches on a massive scale in the tech giant’s opposition to a court order requiring the company to help the FBI gain access to the iPhone used byÃ‚Â San Bernardino terrorist Syed Farook.
“The court’s order is modest,” Justice lawyers argued in the government’s latest defenseÃ‚Â of a California federal magistrate decision. “It applies to a single iPhone, and it allows Apple to decide the least burdensome means of complying…The order does not compel Apple to unlock other iPhones or to give the government a universal master key or back door.”
The Justice filing, which intensifies the rhetoric in an already pitched legal clash between privacy and national security interests, said that Apple’s opposition is based on arguments that are “corrosive of the very institutions that are best able to safeguard our liberty and our rights.”
“Here, Apple deliberately raised technological barriers that now stand between a lawful warrant and iPhone containing evidence related to the terrorist mass murder of 14 Americans,” the government argued. “Apple can be compelled to give aid. That is no lawless tyranny. Rather, it is ordered liberty vindicating the rule of law.”
Citing Apple’s estimates, the government said the required assistance could take as little as two weeks and involve as few as six of the company’s 100,000 employees working on the phone recovered shortly after the December mass shooting carried out by Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik. Both were killed hours after the attack in a shootout with police.
In opposing the court order, Apple has argued that “no court has ever granted the government power to force companies like Apple to weaken its security systems.” The action, the company said, would carry theÃ‚Â added financial impact of potentially harming the company’s reputation with consumers.
Ã¢Â€ÂœThis cheap shot brief surprises us,Ã¢Â€Â Apple general counsel Bruce Sewell said in a conference call with reporters late Thursday.
Ã¢Â€ÂœThe tone of the brief reads like an indictment,Ã¢Â€Â Sewell said. He said that the Ã¢Â€ÂœdesperateÃ¢Â€Â tone of the governmentÃ¢Â€Â™s filing accuses Apple of intentionally blocking lawÃ‚Â enforcement officials and strongly implies Ã¢Â€Âœa sinister relationshipÃ¢Â€Â with government officials in China.
The government’s filing cites some published reports, suggesting that Apple has shared sensitive information with the Chinese government.
“I can only conclude that the DOJ is so desperate at this point that they’ve thrown decorum to the winds.”
But Justice lawyers contended Thursday that the company had sought to “alarm” the court with claims that the government was pushing to create a “back door” into the private communications of millions of customers.
“This is a diversion,” the new court papers stated. “Apple desperately wantsÃ‚Â Ã¢Â€Â”Ã‚Â desperately needsÃ‚Â Ã¢Â€Â”Ã‚Â this case not to be about one isolated iPhone. But there is probable cause to believe there is evidence of a terrorist attack on that phone, and our legal system give this court the authority to see thatÃ‚Â it can be searched pursuant to a lawful warrant. And under the compelling circumstances here, the court should exercise that authority, even if Apple would rather its products be warrant proof.”
Apple hasÃ‚Â drawn a wave of support of other tech companies.
Twitter was one of 17 allied tech firms that filed court papers last week in an attempt to boost Apple’s standing. The firms urged the the court to exercise caution in applying legal standards from an era when cell phones and the Internet did not exist.
The government’s position, meanwhile, has been backed by myriad law enforcement groups and the relatives of many of the San Bernardino victims, including the father of a man killed in the attack who made a personal plea to Apple CEO Tim Cook to cooperate with the government’s request.
“Apple is one of the richest and most tech-savvy companies in the world and it is more than able to comply with the (court) order,” Justice lawyers argued Thursday. “Indeed, it concedes that it can do so with relatively little effort. Even this modest burden is largely a result of Apple’s own decision to design and market a nearly warrant-proof phone.”
A hearing on the matterÃ‚Â is set for March 22.
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