Update: Apple general counsel Bruce Sewell has said that the FBI’s latest filing is a “cheap shot” and notes that the tone of it “reads like an indictment.” Sewell went on to add that the FBI is “so desperate at this point that it has thrown all decorum to the wind.” Furthermore, the Apple executive said that the brief was meant on the FBI’s part to “vilify” Apple.
The Department of Justice has today filed its latest response to Apple in their fight over unlocking the iPhone 5c used by one of the San Bernardino gunmen. The filling comes a week after the two sides faced off before the House Judiciary Committee over the issue. In the filing, the Justice Department accuses Apple of deliberately increasing security to prevent it from being able to comply with governmental requests.
The FBI argues in the filing that its request is “narrow and targeted” and “invades no one’s privacy,” despite Apple continuously arguing the exact opposite. The government says that Apple has the capability to remove the technological barriers to access the data on the device in question “without undue burden.” From the filing (via CNBC):
“Here, Apple deliberately raised technological barriers that now stand between a lawful warrant and an iPhone containing evidence related to the terrorist mass murder of 14 Americans. Apple alone can remove those barriers so that the FBI can search the phone, and it can do so without undue burden.”
As it has done from the start of this case, the Department of Justice also argues that the request is “modest” as it applies to a single iPhone. Apple, on the other hand has said multiple times that once it creates the tool to access the information from the device, it will be out in the wild for anyone to use. Also, in addition to the San Bernardino request, the government is asking for data in at least 14 other cases around the country.
To put the request in perspective, the DOJ explains that since Apple grosses “hundreds of billions of dollars” it should not have a problem complying with the request:
“By Apple’s own reckoning, the corporation — which grosses hundreds of billions of dollars a year — would need to set aside as few of six of its 100,000 employees for as little as two weeks.”
In the past, Apple has implied that the FBI screwed up the process of obtaining iCloud backups, saying that it changed the Apple ID password shortly after it obtained possession. In today’s filing, however, the FBI says that the San Bernardino gunman disabled iCloud backups roughly six weeks before the attacks.
“The evidence on Farook’s iCloud account suggests that he had already changed his iCloud password himself on October 22, 2015—shortly after the last backup—and that the autobackup feature was disabled. A forced backup of Farook’s iPhone was never going to be successful, and the decision to obtain whatever iCloud evidence was immediately available via the password change was the reasoned decision of experienced FBI agents investigating a deadly terrorist conspiracy”
Finally, the filling accuses Apple’s responses of being “not only false, but also corrosive.” The Department of Justice implies that Apple is going against the “safeguards” of the country, which include the Fourth Amendment, the courts, laws, and branches of government:
“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.”
You can view the full filling below: