WASHINGTON – Apple Inc. on Thursday asked a federal magistrate to reverse her order that the company help the FBI hack into a locked iPhone, accusing the federal government of seeking “dangerous power” through the courts and of trampling on its constitutional rights.
The filing represents Apple’s first official response since the judge’s order last week and builds upon arguments voiced by the company’s chief executive and supporters.
It marks the latest salvo in a court fight that could create meaningful precedent and establish new legal boundaries in the policy between national security and digital privacy.
“No court has ever authorized what the government now seeks, no law supports such unlimited and sweeping use of the judicial process, and the Constitution forbids it,” Apple said.
The Justice Department is proposing a “boundless interpretation” of the law that, if left unchecked, could bring disastrous repercussions, the company warned in a memo submitted to Magistrate Sheri Pym that aggressively challenges policy justifications put forward by the Obama administration.
“The government says: ‘Just this once’ and ‘Just this phone.’ But the government knows those statements are not true,” lawyers for Apple wrote.
They said if Apple were required to build the software, “criminals, terrorists and hackers will no doubt view the code as a major prize and can be expected to go to considerable lengths to steal it.”
A hearing is scheduled for next month.
The dispute broke into public view last Tuesday when Pym directed Apple to help the FBI gain access to a phone used by one of the assailants in the San Bernardino, California, attacks.
Apple compared forcing it to create software that doesn’t exist to weaken the iPhone’s locks to forcing a journalist to publish false information to arrest a fugitive.
“The government wants to compel Apple to create a crippled and insecure product,” Apple said. “Once the process is created, it provides an avenue for criminals and foreign agents to access millions of iPhones.”
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