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DoJ Accuses Apple and Supporters of Hypocrisy

The U.S. Department of Justice has taken the gloves off, accusing Apple -- and the slew of tech companies including Microsoft that supported Apple -- of hypocrisy for refusing to comply with a court order that it help the FBI unlock the iPhone used by a suspected terrorist in December's San Bernardino, Calif. shootings that killed 14 people.

In a sharply worded filing yesterday, the DoJ, the nation's top prosecutor, lambasted Apple for its response to a California federal district court order. In its objection the DoJ contended that Apple has previously helped U.S. law enforcement, as well as investigators in other countries including China, access information on iPhones.

The filing also accused Apple and those who filed amici briefs of confusing the issue by arguing it would set legal precedent for governments to build backdoors into devices and Internet infrastructure.

"Apple's rhetoric is not only false, but also corrosive of the very institutions that are best able to safeguard our liberty and our rights: the courts, the Fourth Amendment, longstanding precedent and venerable laws, and the democratically elected branches of government," the filing stated. "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."

The DoJ also refuted Apple's claim that the All Writs Act is "an obscure law dredged up by the government to achieve unprecedented power. That premise is false."

Apple General Counsel Bruce Sewell told reporters on a conference call that the filing had no merit and called it a cheap shot. "In 30 years of practice, I don't think I have ever seen a legal brief that was more intended to smear the other side with false accusations and innuendo, and less intended to focus on the real merits of the case," he said, calling its response "desperate," containing "rhetoric" that was "unsupported and unsubstantiated." He also added that "the tone of the brief reads like an indictment."

It was clear last week at the RSA Conference in San Francisco that the DoJ disagreed with Apple's position when Attorney General Loretta Lynch discussed her views during a conference session.

 "I respect Tim Cook a great deal and his views will heard in court and they'll be decided in court," Lynch said. "I think we have to decide also as a country, in this conversation, do we let this company, no matter how great the company, no matter how beautiful their devices, do we let one company decide this issue for all of us? Should one company say 'this is how investigations are going to be conducted and no other way?' We don't do that in any other areas."

Apple's Sewell is expected to file a response next week and on March 22 both sides will face off in court.


Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 03/11/2016 at 1:42 PM


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