Apple vs the FBI continues in New York encryption battle

The government can't crack the iPhone in a Brooklyn drug case.


We said it wasn't over. The federal government plans to pursue a Brooklyn drug case in which it's compelling Apple to unlock an iPhone. This is completely separate from the San Bernardino case that ignited a public debate about encryption and privacy.

"The government's application is not moot and the government continues to require Apple's assistance in accessing the data that it is authorized to search by warrant," US Attorney Robert Capers writes, as reported by Re/Code.

Throughout 2016, the FBI and Apple fought in court and the public eye over the limits of encryption. Invoking the All Writs Act, the FBI ordered Apple to help it unlock the iPhone 5c of San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook. Apple refused, calling the request unconstitutional and other unpatriotic phrases. Many tech giants, including Microsoft, Google, Twitter and Reddit, sided with the company. The FBI halted its case against Apple in late March after a third party offered to unlock the 5c.

Apple attorneys fear the Department of Justice is attempting to set a precedent with the Brooklyn case that would allow the government to crack any device as it sees fit. The FBI is relying heavily on the All Writs Act, a 227-year-old law that attempts to address cases that defy the existing legal process. Apple's supporters argue the AWA is a "gap-filling measure," not a broad allowance of power for the DoJ. Though the AWA is positioned as a last resort, the federal government has invoked it in 70 cases involving Apple and Google, according to court documents from October.

The Brooklyn drug case is one of a dozen lawsuits in which the DoJ is seeking access to locked iPhones.