US gov't can't force Apple to unlock iPhone in drug case: Brooklyn judge
by Daily Sabah with Wires
ISTANBULMar 01, 2016 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Daily Sabah with Wires
Mar 01, 2016 12:00 am
The ruling could signal Apple is on sound footing in a separate but similar battle with the U.S. government over being forced to help the hack into an iPhone used by one of the shooters in San Bernardino attacks
The U.S. Justice Department cannot force Apple to provide the FBI with access to locked iPhone data in a routine Brooklyn drug case, a federal judge ruled Monday. U.S. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein's written decision gives support to the company's position in its fight against a California judge's order that it create specialized software to help the FBI hack into an iPhone linked to the San Bernardino terrorism investigation.
Apple on Thursday formally objected to the order in a brief filed with the court, accusing the federal government of seeking "dangerous power" through the courts and of trampling on the company's constitutional rights.
The San Bernardino County-owned iPhone 5C was used by Syed Farook, who was a health inspector. He and his wife Tashfeen Malik killed 14 people during a Dec. 2 attack at a county holiday party that was at least partly inspired by the Islamic State group. The couple died later in a gun battle with police. Apple's opposition to the government's tactics has evoked a national debate over digital privacy rights and national security.
Orenstein concluded that Apple is not obligated to assist government investigators against its will and noted that Congress has not adopted legislation that would achieve the result sought by the government. Orenstein's ruling while not considered binding or precedent setting for the California case will likely still have influence on the arguments put forth before Judge Sheri Pym at a hearing next month. The New York case is far less onerous or invasive for Apple and its technology; the extraction technique exists for that older operating system, and it's been used before to assist investigators.
In California, Pym ordered investigators to create specialized software which since late 2014 doesn't exist for newer phones to help the FBI bypass security protocols to test random passcode combinations in rapid sequence. Orenstein said he was offering no opinion on whether in the instance of this case or others, "the government's legitimate interest in ensuring that no door is too strong to resist lawful entry should prevail against the equally legitimate societal interests arrayed against it here."
The Justice Department said in a statement that it's disappointed in the ruling and plans to appeal in coming days. It said Apple had previously agreed many times prior to assist the government and "only changed course when the government's application for assistance was made public by the court."
A senior Apple executive said the company policy has been to produce information to the government when there is a lawful order to do so, but that in New York the judge never issued the order, and instead asked attorneys to file briefs addressing the constitutionality of the request for Apple to bypass its security protocols under the 1789 All Writs Act.
Meanwhile, members of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee are considering filing a "friend of the court" brief in Apple Inc's encryption dispute with the U.S. government to argue that the case should be decided by Congress and not the courts, five sources familiar with the matter said. The sources cautioned that no final agreement had been reached on what would be an unusual intervention by congressmen in a legal proceeding. The court deadline is Thursday. The filing would argue that the Feb. 16 order from a federal court in California that instructs Apple to write special software to unlock an iPhone 5c used by one of the San Bernardino shooters threatens the constitutional separation of powers, the sources said.
They said the brief would come from individual committee members of both Republican and Democratic parties but not the judiciary committee itself. Reuters could not determine which members were likely to be included.