Apple just took its next swipe in the fight over unlocking a terrorist’s iPhone: a court order to vacate. The company is invoking the First and Fifth Amendments to argue that the court order it received to create a back door for the device is unconstitutional. The motion is embedded below.
As you may have expected, Apple did not mince its words in explaining the catastrophic consequences of giving the government such sweeping powers. Less than a day after Tim Cook likened the back door to a “software equivalent of cancer” on US national television, the company’s lawyers explained in stark terms how the government’s request would “impose an unprecedented and oppressive burden on Apple and the citizens who use the iPhone”. Check out this analogy — we’ve added emphasis:
For example, under the same legal theories advocated by the government here, the government could argue that it should be permitted to force citizens to do all manner of things “necessary” to assist it in enforcing the laws, like compelling a pharmaceutical company against its will to produce drugs needed to carry out a lethal injection in furtherance of a lawfully issued death warrant, or requiring a journalist to plant a false story in order to help lure out a fugitive, or forcing a software company to insert malicious code in its auto- update process that makes it easier for the government to conduct court-ordered surveillance.
Of course, that third example is essentially what the government is doing. While the current case deals applies to an iPhone 5C owned by the San Bernardino shooter, the FBI has made at least a dozen other similar requests. As Apple and other security experts have explained time and time again, it’s impossible to create a back door for a single device. If forced to build the software, Apple would make every iPhone vulnerable to government intrusion.
“This is not a case about one isolated iPhone,” the motion reads. “No court has ever authorised what the government now seeks, no law supports such unlimited and sweeping use of the judicial process, and the Constitution forbids it.”
Why would we want to start now?
Read the full motion below: