FBI director James Comey – who had previously claimed that “the San Bernardino litigation isn’t about trying to set a precedent” – has now admitted that it would. The Guardian reports that Comey made the admission when testifying under oath yesterday to a Congress committee.

The ultimate outcome of the Apple-FBI showdown is likely to “guide how other courts handle similar requests”, James Comey told a congressional intelligence panel on Thursday, a softening of his flat insistence on Sunday that the FBI was not attempting to “set a precedent”.

Asked if it was true that police departments around the country also wanted to gain access to locked iPhones, he agreed that it was …

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance is one of those who has said his office is planning to bring similar cases to court, the Guardian reporting that he has 175 cases of locked iPhones awaiting the outcome of the FBI case.

Comey also appears to be going easier on Apple.

“There are no demons here,” said Comey, striking a more conciliatory tone than that of the Justice Department’s accusation in court last week that Apple was placing “marketing” over security.

Apple’s top lawyer Bruce Sewell is due to testify before the same committee next week. Tim Cook has said that creating a tool to unlock iPhones is “the software equivalent of cancer.”

The American public, however, still sides with the FBI – though not decisively so. The latest poll (via The Verge) of just under 2000 registered voters shows that 51% say Apple should unlock the phone, while 33% think it shouldn’t (and 16% are undecided). San Bernardino victims and families of the victims are also divided.

CNET reports that all five remaining Republican Presidential candidates unsurprisingly come down on the side of the FBI, with Marco Rubio the most aggressive in his language.

“Apple doesn’t want to do it [hack the phone] because they think it hurts their brand,” Rubio insisted. “Well, let me tell you their brand is not superior to the United State of America.”

Bizarrely, this appeared to contradict a statement he made last week that Apple “wasn’t necessarily in the wrong.”

Catch up on all our coverage of the case in the links below.

Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

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Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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