US justice department urges immediate action on Apple

Prosecutors say Tim Cook statement on order to unlock San Bernardino iPhone is a ‘marketing’ ploy

The US justice department, impatient over its inability to unlock the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino killers, demanded Friday that a judge immediately order Apple to give it the technical tools to get inside the phone.

It said Apple’s refusal to help unlock the phone for the FBI “appears to be based on its concern for its business model and public brand marketing strategy”, rather than a legal rationale.

In court documents, prosecutors asked a federal judge to enforce an earlier order requiring Apple to provide the government with a tool to extract the data from a locked iPhone 5c.

They are trying to get into the phone used by Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the attackers in the San Bernardino rampage in California, which left 14 dead.

“Rather than assist the effort to fully investigate a deadly terrorist attack by obeying this court’s order of February 16th, 2016,” prosecutors wrote in their latest filing, “Apple has responded by publicly repudiating that order.”

The justice department's latest filing escalated what has already been a contentious showdown with Apple and its chief executive,Timothy Cook.

On Wednesday, in a 1,100-word letter to his customers, Mr Cook accused the justice department of mounting a “chilling” attack on privacy and Internet security. He said that what prosecutors were demanding amounted to forcing Apple to create a “backdoor” to get around its own security protocols.

But justice department prosecutors say that Apple’s technical help is crucial to unlocking Farook’s iPhone and whatever clues it may hold to his actions and communications both before and immediate after the shootings.

Apple's lawyers are expected to file by next Friday their formal response to this week's order from magistrate judge Sheri Pym of the US district court for the central district of California. They are likely to argue that the justice department's demands and the judge's order go beyond the government's statutory powers in gathering and searching for evidence under the All Writs Act, a law dating to 1789 used in the current case. – Copyright New York Times 2016