Apple officially strikes back against the government in iPhone case


Apple has formally filed a motion to vacate a court order demanding it assist the FBI in breaking into a locked iPhone.

“This is not a case about one isolated iPhone,” the motion begins. “Rather, this 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 has spoken out against the government’s demands previously, but this is our first look at the legal arguments it will levy against the FBI and DOJ in what will likely be a long battle in the court system.

The government is seeking to force Apple to unlock an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino terrorist attackers. The FBI says it wants to gather as much information from the phone as it can, and that it is asking for access to one phone and not a “master key” to encryption. Apple contends that the software the government wants it to build is a backdoor into the iPhone that would put countless users at risk, and set a dangerous precedent.

Apple’s argument

In today’s motion, Apple calls the FBI’s order unprecedented, says it has no support in the law and violates the US Constitution.

Apple calls attention to the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), which Congress has not updated (the Obama administration decided not to pursue an expanded CALEA II and Congress left the law untouched) in such a manner that would mandate companies like Apple put a backdoor into their products.

Furthermore, CALEA doesn’t allow law enforcement “to require Apple to implement any specific design of its equipment, facilities, services or system configuration,” which Apple says is happening in this case.