Apple Responds To The Government: "No Court Has Ever Authorized What The Government Seeks"

Moments ago, as part of the ongoing feud between the FBI and Apple over the question of whether or not the US government should be allowed to have a backdoor hack into every iPhone, the Cupertino company filed a 65 page brief in the matter of the "search of the seized iPhone".

As can be seen in the full filing presented below, Apple argues that the government's request is "unprecedented" and violates the company's First Amendment rights. "This case is not a case about one isolated iPhone," Apple said in the filing, reiterating previous comments.

Here are some of the key comments:

This is not a case about one isolated iPhone. 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. The government demands that Apple create a back door to defeat the encryption on the iPhone, making its users’ most confidential and personal information vulnerable to hackers, identity thieves, hostile foreign agents, and unwarranted government surveillance. The All Writs Act, first enacted in 1789 and on which the government bases its entire case, “does not give the district court a roving commission” to conscript and commandeer Apple in this manner. Plum Creek Lumber Co. v. Hutton, 608 F.2d 1283, 1289 (9th Cir. 1979). In fact, no court has ever authorized what the government now seeks, no law supports such unlimited and sweeping use of the judicial process, and the Constitution forbids it.

That's all great, but how is any of this different from the access the NSA already has to all digital communication technology? Apple continues:

There are two important and legitimate interests in this case: the needs of law enforcement and the privacy and personal safety interests of the public. In furtherance of its law enforcement interests, the government had the opportunity to seek amendments to existing law, to ask Congress to adopt the position it urges here. But rather than pursue new legislation, the government backed away from Congress and turned to the courts, a forum ill-suited to address the myriad competing interests, potential ramifications, and unintended consequences presented by the government’s unprecedented demand. And more importantly, by invoking “terrorism” and moving ex parte behind closed courtroom doors, the government sought to cut off debate and circumvent thoughtful analysis.

On the topic of the "back door":

The order demanded by the government compels Apple to create a new operating system—effectively a “back door” to the iPhone—that Apple believes is too dangerous to build. Specifically, the government would force Apple to create new software with functions to remove security features and add a new capability to the operating system to attack iPhone encryption, allowing a passcode to be input electronically. This would make it easier to unlock the iPhone by “brute force,” trying thousands or millions of passcode combinations with the speed of a modern computer. In short, the government wants to compel Apple to create a crippled and insecure product. Once the process is created, it provides an avenue for criminals and foreign agents to access millions of iPhones. And once developed for our government, it is only a matter of time before foreign governments demand the same tool.

And why Apple just says no, for now.

The government says: “Just this once” and “Just this phone.” But the government knows those statements are not true; indeed the government has filed multiple other applications for similar orders, some of which are pending in other courts. And 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.3 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, and the device security that Apple has worked so tirelessly to achieve will be unwound without so much as a congressional vote. As Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, recently noted: “Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices. In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks—from restaurants and banks to stores and homes. No reasonable person would find that acceptable.”

Whatever the ultimate outcome, expect much more drama in this tragicomic case study of a marketing campaign, one which seeks to portray AAPL as a defender of personal privacy right. How do we know this is one big farce? Because moments ago both Google and FaceBook, the biggest abusers of private information, filed motions supporting Apple.