We knew we were going to hear back from Apple’s lawyers after the Department of Justice filed another motion in its ongoing struggle to get the company to disable the passcode lock on a terrorist’s iPhone, and we weren’t disappointed.
Apple’s lead counsel Bruce Sewell fired back at the new document in a phone conversation with reporters today, and this whole thing is just one chair-toss away from being a talk-show episode. According to Sewell, the government’s response was “intended to smear [Apple] with false accusations and innuendo,” and he just kept going from there.
The iPhone maker and the government have been going back and forth on this case, in which federal authorities have been seeking a legal mandate to make Apple create a version of its mobile operating system that will both disable a feature that deletes a device’s content after 10 failed attempts to enter the passcode and allow authorities to use software to brute-force every possible combination. Apple claims that the software constitutes a backdoor that will make hundreds of millions of iPhones vulnerable to cyberattacks, and the FBI has said, more or less, “Nuh-uh.”
The latest filing, full text of which is available online, comes after investigators have taken several blows to their case. A judge in New York ruled that police couldn’t compel Apple to unlock a phone involved in another trial, and FBI head James Comey didn’t win any points at a Congressional hearing. And new polling shows public support leaning toward Apple’s cause. This latest maneuver
The Department of Justice says, in part,
Apple and its amici try to alarm this Court with issues of network security, encryption, back doors, and privacy, invoking larger debates before Congress and in the news media. That is a diversion. Apple desperately wants — desperately needs — 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 gives this Court the authority to see that 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.
“This should be deeply offensive to everyone that reads it,” Sewell said (via AppleInsider). “An unsupported, unsubstantiated effort to vilify Apple rather than confront the issues in the case.”
“We add security features to protect our customers from hackers and criminals,” the counsel added. “And the FBI should be supporting us in this because it keeps everyone safe. To suggest otherwise is demeaning. It cheapens the debate and it tries to mask the real and serious issues. I can only conclude that the DoJ is so desperate at this point that it has thrown all decorum to the winds.”