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The government still needs Apple’s help to crack a locked iPhone 5s in New York

Susie Ochs | April 11, 2016
Apple responded to the Department of Justice's latest claim, in a case already decided in Apple's favor but currently under appeal.

In San Bernardino, the government claimed multiple times that only Apple could unlock the phone (the FBI was even asking Apple to rewrite a one-off version of iOS to bypass its security protections), and then suddenly claimed they’d gotten into the phone with another third-party tool and would not be pursuing that case further. According to Apple’s attorneys, the fact that the Department of Justice is still pursuing the New York case—in which the meth dealer in question has already confessed and is due to be sentenced in May—shows that the government didn’t bring the San Bernardino case purely to fight terrorism, and that the government’s goal is certainly bigger than any one phone.

Apple will file a briefing in the New York case next Thursday and eventually there will be a hearing. Apple’s attorneys said that they hope the judge hearing the appear, Judge Margo Brodie, will press the FBI on why Apple’s help is necessary in this case, when it apparently wasn’t for the encrypted phone in the San Bernardino case. Apple says they won’t be suing the government to find out what the solution wound up being in the San Bernardino case, and isn’t interested in that solution becoming public, or in forcing the FBI to reveal its secrets or its methods in court. But it doesn’t seem fair for an assistant U.S. attorney to be able to say, effectively, Apple needs to help us, your honor, please make them, without backing that up with some showing of what’s already been tried.

Long-term, Apple would still like the solution to come from Congress, but its attorneys didn’t yet have an opinion on the “Feinstein Burr bill” that was leaked in a draft version on Thursday, titled the “Compliance with Court Orders Act of 2016” (PDF), since they hadn’t read it. The negative reaction to that bill by security experts was swift and severe. “This basically outlaws end-to-end encryption,” Joseph Lorenzo Hall, chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology, told Wired. “It’s effectively the most anti-crypto bill of all anti-crypto bills.”


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