Desk Report: For months, the FBI searched for a compelling case that would force Apple to weaken iPhone security – and then the San Bernardino shooting happened Two weeks ago, the Federal Bureau of Investigation called Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, California, with a jarring message: the agency wanted Apple to help them hack an iPhone. Apple refused.
The request stepped up a level on 16 February when a federal magistrate ordered Apple to help the FBI unlock a single iPhone – the phone belonging to one of the killers in the December mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. Apple again refused.
But this carefully planned legal battle has been months in the making, US officials and tech executives told the Guardian, as the government and Apple try to settle whether national security can dictate how Silicon Valley writes computer code.
Both sides expect the ensuing legal battle to have far-reaching implications that will touch on encryption, law enforcement, digital privacy and a 225-year-old law from America’s post-colonial days.
The law operates on precedent, so the fundamental question here isn’t whether the FBI gets access to this particular phone,” said Julian Sanchez, a surveillance law expert at the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute in Washington. “It’s whether a catch-all law from 1789 can be used to effectively conscript technology companies into producing hacking tools and spyware for the government.