In a blistering attack against Apple for allowing technology, “rather than the law,” to control data access, federal prosecutors filed court papers in Riverside Friday seeking to compel Apple to comply with an earlier order requiring the company to obtain and turn over information from the iPhone of one of the two terrorists who killed 14 people in San Bernardino.
Apple has resisted the order, which was issued earlier this week by a magistrate judge in Riverside, saying it would compromise the security of all iPhone owners’ information.
“Rather than assist the effort to fully investigate a deadly terrorist attack by obeying this court’s order of February 16, 2016, Apple has responded by publicly repudiating that order,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office motion filed with Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym.
“Apple has attempted to design and market its products to allow technology, rather than the law, to control access to data which has been found by this court to be warranted for an important investigation. Despite its efforts, Apple nonetheless retains the technical ability to comply with the order, and so should be required to obey it.”
Syed Rizwan Farook, the man in the husband-wife terror duo that killed 14 people at the Inland Regional Center on Dec. 2, apparently turned off the phone’s iCloud remote storage function about six weeks before the shooting, according to a government memo, which claimed he may have done it to conceal evidence.
Pym directed Apple Tuesday to help the FBI defeat the phone’s passcode protection and any auto-erase functions incorporated into the device.
“The government has been unable to complete the search because it cannot access the iPhone’s encrypted content,” Los Angeles-based U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker wrote in a 40-page motion to the court. “Apple has the exclusive technical means which would assist the government in completing its search, but has declined to provide that assistance voluntarily.”
But Apple CEO Tim Cook quickly responded that Apple would continue to resist federal authorities, notwithstanding Pym’s order.
Apple has “no sympathy for terrorists,” Cook said, but what the government is doing constitutes “overreach.”
“When the FBI has requested data that’s in our possession, we have provided it. Apple complies with valid subpoenas,” he said, arguing that the request for encryption-defying technology is different.
No such technology now exists, he said
“In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession,” he said.
“Customers expect Apple and other technology companies to do everything in our power to protect their personal information, and at Apple we are deeply committed to safeguarding their data.”
Farook, 28, and his emigree wife, 27-year-old Tashfeen Malik — carried out the massacre at the Inland Regional Center immediately following a Christmas party there, according to federal authorities. Fourteen people were killed in the mass shooting and 22 others were wounded. Several victims are still undergoing treatment.
The husband and wife were killed in a shootout with law enforcement officers a few hours later.
Farook’s longtime neighbor, 24-year-old Enrique Marquez Jr. of Riverside, is charged with five felonies in connection with the shooting rampage.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Marquez allegedly purchased the two semiautomatic rifles that the perpetrators used to carry out the attack.
According to the court papers filed today, federal authorities suspect that Farook may have used the iPhone, which was issued to him by his employer — San Bernardino County, “to communicate with some of the very people whom he and Malik murdered.”
“The phone may contain critical communications and data prior to and around the time of the shooting that, thus far has not been accessed, may reside solely on the phone and cannot be accessed by any other means known to either the government or Apple.”
Prosecutors also insist that their request will not compromise the data of other iPhone users.
“The order requires Apple to assist the FBI with respect to this single iPhone used by Farook by providing the FBI with the opportunity to determine the passcode,” according to the court papers. “The order does not, as Apple’s public statement alleges, require Apple to create or provide a ‘back door’ to every iPhone; it does not provide ‘hackers and criminals’ access to iPhones; it does not require Apple to ‘hack (its) own users’ or to ‘decrypt’ its own phones; it does not give the government ‘the power to reach into anyone’s device’ without a warrant or court authorization; and it does not compromise the security of personal information.”
— City News Service