Why Apple Says It Won't Help Unlock That iPhone, In 5 Key Quotes
Apple and the FBI are facing off in court over an encrypted iPhone 5C that was used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook. The phone stopped backing up to the cloud, which the investigators have already searched, several weeks before the Dec. 2 attack.
It's unclear what, if anything remains on the phone, but the Justice Department says it has "reason to believe" that Farook used that iPhone to communicate "with some of the very people" he and his wife killed.
Apple and the government, however, are at odds over a court order that investigators got to compel Apple to help them circumvent the iPhone's security systems. Right now, the phone is protected by a PIN code that the FBI doesn't know — and trying to guess it could cause the phone's data to be deleted.
The FBI wants Apple to write software that would give it unlimited attempts at the PIN with a computer program, but Apple's answer is a hard no. In a motion to dismiss the court's order, filed Thursday, the company says it has cooperated with investigators as much as it can, and this software request is dangerous, illegal and unconstitutional.
Here are five key quotes from the filing that outline Apple's argument — plus one swipe at the FBI's computer skills:
A Slippery Slope
The FBI says the custom-written software would be for this phone specifically. Apple doesn't buy it:
A Dangerous Precedent
An Overreaching Court
The court order instructing Apple to comply cites the All Writs Act, which broadly permits courts to "issue all writs necessary or appropriate" and has been used to compel companies to assist law enforcement in investigations. But Apple says this request overreaches the court's authority — that this particular court order is creating a new power, not using an existing one. Only Congress, by passing a new law, could make such a demand legal, Apple argues:
A Tenuous Connection
The Supreme Court has previously found that the All Writs Act can be used to force a company's cooperation, provided that the company was not "far removed" from the case in question. Apple argues it is, indeed, far removed:
A Violation Of Constitutional Rights
"Under well-settled law, computer code is treated as speech within the meaning of the First Amendment," Apple says.
Under some conditions, the government can force companies to make statements of various kinds. But Apple argues that in this case, given the uncertain value of what's on the iPhone, the investigators failed to prove a compelling state interest in getting into the device and so lack a constitutional reason to compel Apple to speak — especially when the "speech" (aka code the company would write) is in direct opposition to Apple's public stance in favor of encryption and security.
Apple also argues that the request violates the company's Fifth Amendment right to due process:
And As A Bonus ... A "Shoulda Asked Sooner"
Apple also suggested that the FBI's current problem is one of its own making — that federal investigators who lacked sufficient knowledge of Apple's security systems blocked themselves from an easier way of accessing much of the phone's data:
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