Apple court papers: FBI is seeking ‘dangerous power’ that violates its constitutional rights – Los Angeles Times

8 months ago Comments Off on Apple court papers: FBI is seeking ‘dangerous power’ that violates its constitutional rights – Los Angeles Times

Apple Inc. on Thursday filed key court papers to fight a judge’s order requiring the technology giant to assist federal agents in the San Bernardino terror investigation, saying the judge in the case had overstepped her authority and violated the company’s constitutional rights.

In a filing in Riverside federal court, Apple said the federal government is violating the company’s 1st and 5th Amendment rights by demanding that it create software that would allow access to an encrypted iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino attackers.

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Apple has said obeying the order would threaten the privacy of all iPhone users, leaving the devices vulnerable to “hackers, identity thieves and unwarranted government surveillance.” 

“This is not a case about one isolated iPhone,” the company’s motion read. “Rather, this case is about the Department of Justice and the FBI seeking through the courts a dangerous power that Congress and the American people have withheld: the ability to force companies like Apple to undermine the basic security and privacy interests of hundreds of millions of individuals around the globe.” 

In its motion, Apple also said the debate over what law enforcement can and cannot compel a company to do “is a political question, not a legal one.” 

Apple argues that the writing of software amounts to protected 1st Amendment speech. The company also contends that the centuries-old law cited in the government’s motion for a court order does not grant blanket power to “compel innocent third parties to provide decryption services to the FBI.”

The company also pointed to local law enforcement’s longheld demands for access to encrypted data on Apple devices as proof that the government is seeking to unlock more than just Farook’s phone. Police leaders across the country have said they are unable to examine encrypted devices in their possession that could serve as evidence in other criminal cases.

Apple said those complaints undermine the government’s position that the court order is meant to serve only as an investigative avenue in the San Bernardino attacks.

“As news of this Court’s order broke last week, state and local officials publicly declared their intent to use the proposed operating system to open hundreds of other seized devices — in cases having nothing to do with terrorism,” the motion read. “If this order is permitted to stand, it will only be a matter of days before some other prosecutor, in some other important case, before some other judge, seeks a similar order using this case as precedent. Once the floodgates open, they cannot be closed.”

Apple took aim at the government’s use of the All Writs Act as the legal basis of the order compelling the company to assist the FBI. The act, which was first passed by Congress in 1789 and has been updated periodically, is a sweeping legal tool that allows judges to issue orders if other judicial avenues are unavailable.

In seeking the order, prosecutors said the act provided legal grounds to force Apple to write new computer software that would allow FBI agents to discover the phone’s four-digit security passcode.

In recent cases, law enforcement agencies have relied on a 1977 Supreme Court ruling that said the All Writs Act could be used to compel New York Telephone Co. to provide technology to enable investigators to track calls being made in a suspected gambling operation.

Apple court papers: FBI is seeking ‘dangerous power’ that violates its constitutional rights – Los Angeles Times