In what could mark the beginning of a long court battle, Apple has filed its first legal response to void the court order asking the company to open up the iPhone of San Bernardino shooter.
Apple strongly supports, and will continue to support, the efforts of law enforcement in pursuing justice against terrorists and other criminals — just as it has in this case and many others. But the unprecedented order requested by the government finds no support in the law and would violate the Constitution,
reads the filing by Apple.
The 65-page legal document hits strongly upon All Writs Act invoked by the FBI for compelling Apple to open the iPhone and argues that the government has “cut off debate” by beginning this battle “behind closed doors” instead of in Congress.
By invoking ‘terrorism’ and moving ex parte behind closed courtroom doors, the government sought to cut off debate and circumvent thoughtful analysis.
read the document.
Reiterating the previous stance of CEO Tim Cook, the legal document reads,
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.
Apple’s major focus is on the All Writs Act which states that the court can order third party services to help execute a court order such as a search warrant. However, Supreme Court has ruled out that this order can only be executed as long as it does not impose an unreasonable demand on the third party.
And Apple claims that it indeed puts an unreasonable demand on Apple to write a new software based on the old iOS to access the data on the phone.
Although it is difficult to estimate, because it has never been done before, the decision, creation, validation, and deployment of the software likely would necessitate six to ten Apple engineers and employees dedicating a very substantial portion of their time for a minimum of two weeks, and likely as many as four weeks.
It further went on saying that this would further require other procedures such as quality testing, documentation, and security measures as it would be used outside Apple premises. Not to mention it would need to record everything, “in case Apple’s methodology is ever questioned.”
Apple also pointed out that deleting the technology after the use would also not be very smart as other law enforcement agencies would also require the same for all the pending cases.
Apple claims that it is an “enormously intrusive burden” for the company to build everything up and tearing it down for each demand by law enforcement. And as far as keeping the encryption-breaking technology is concerned, it would be just as big of a burden due to the fear of going into wrong hands.
The other major point which the Cupertino giant stresses in its legal motion is that forcing Apple to write a separate code is against the First Amendment law and violates Right to Free Speech of Apple.
This is because First Amendment treats computer code as speech and according to Apple, meeting the demands of the government would be equivalent to “compelled speech and viewpoint discrimination”. This is, in fact, a very strong argument according to the civil liberties experts.
The company also claimed that since the company is not directly related to the crime, the court order also violates the company’s rights “to be free ‘from arbitrary deprivation of [its] liberty by government” according to the Fifth Amendment.
The court has now set a deadline of March 10 for the government to respond to the motion of Apple and a hearing is scheduled on March 22 for the oral arguments.
However, the case seems far to be solved and this may just be the beginning, especially when Tim Cook has publically made it clear that he was ready to go all the way to Supreme Court for this one.