Apple lawyer warns government on road to 'limitless' power in iPhone encryption fight

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Apple lawyer Ted Olson, who some view as one of the most prominent practicing attorneys in the U.S., on Friday said the government appears to be on the path to "limitless" power in its court battle with Apple.




In an interview with CNN Money's Laurie Segall, Olson said there are serious implications to an FBI victory over Apple in its case to force the company's assistance in unlocking an iPhone used by San Bernardino terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook.

Last week, a federal magistrate judge issued an order compelling Apple to write purposely vulnerable code in hopes of defeating a passcode lock on Farook's iPhone 5c, leaving it open to a brute-force attack. The Department of Justice cites as its legal foundation the All Writs Act of 1789, a statute granting federal courts sweeping authority if no other judicial options are available. It was learned this week that the FBI is asserting All Writs to compel decryption assistance in at least nine other cases involving iOS devices.

Olson warned dangerous precedent could be set if the DOJ successfully argues its case on this point, and suggested government agencies might later leverage the same tools to compel the dedication of resources to creating bespoke systems capable of tracking people's movements or even listening in on their conversations.

"You can imagine every different law enforcement official telling Apple we want a new product to get into something," Olson said. "Even a state judge could order Apple to build something. There's no stopping point. That would lead to a police state."

The slippery slope argument was one posed in Apple's official response to last week's court order, and later echoed by CEO Tim Cook in an extended interview with ABC News. Neither the FBI nor Apple know if there is indeed actionable data to be extracted from the device, though San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan seems to think that possibility is unlikely. In any case, the FBI is forcing Apple's hand and Apple is pushing back.



Addressing concerns that Apple's fight for data privacy stands as a roadblock to thwarting impending terrorist actions, Olson said "we must do everything possible" to defuse such threats and the perpetrators behind them, but not at the expense of basic civil rights.

"We have got to stop someplace, we cannot break someone's back to get them to tell somebody where somebody else is," he said. "So if we're saying there's a serious threat, throw out the Constitution in order to prevent that threat, where do we draw the line?"

Olson also intimated that a secure device ecosystem, which Apple publicly touts as a keystone iOS feature, speaks to the supposed limits of government access.

"It is not Orwellian here, you know, where big brother can see anything you want," he said. "Apple's constantly trying to improve its iPhones to serve you, the public -- and the hundreds of millions of people that trust Apple to do this -- to provide security so that people can't hack in and find out where your children are, or what your medical records are. So if Apple continues to do that, it's just a point at which the government just can't get into your soul," Olson said.

Despite what Apple claims is at stake, Olson does not believe the company would defy a Supreme Court ruling in favor of the FBI. He pointed out, however, that there's a long way to go before the case reaches such heights.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 9
    I commend Apple for making a stand against a corrupt government and CORRUPT law enforcement entities like the FBI and the USDOJ. It is truly, both amazing and disgusting that the main stream media, corrupt and bought-off politicians and there toadies are all pimping and prostituting themselves for the  FASCIST POLICE-STATE , especially since Mr. Edward Snowden  "blew the whistle " and outed these criminally corrupt low-lifes. The AMERICAN CITIZENS, the PEOPLE of this Nation need to "snap out of it"and WAKE-UP and get behind Apple on this one. We are already in a fascist police state and its must be STOPPED NOW.
    gtrpropodchiamr odtidmoretexdeafystskrob53stevehjony0
  • Reply 2 of 9
    kibitzerkibitzer Posts: 1,113member
    If the government succeeds in forcing this on Apple, it will surely reap what it sows at some point. Our governmment has failed miserably in recent years protecting its own vital secrets. Some of America's most potentially dangerous espionage adversaries - the Chinese Army for example - would acquire the same hack that Apple would be forced to develop in short order. Stop beating our gums about ISIS and start worrying more about the future Edward Snowdens and Chelsea (Bradley) Mannings who gnaw at our security ffrom the inside. DOJ, beware the danger of unintended consequences.
    chiadtidmorestskjony0jagnuttdknoxbrian green
  • Reply 3 of 9
    ed c, almost every single thing you said contains either wrong information or wrong reasoning:
    • You want to lock up someone for exercising the right to the appeals process?
    • You think passwords have nothing to do with encryption?
    • You don't know that the wipe-after-10-tries feature is optional?
    • You would be fine with people seeing private pictures of your wife? You don't understand that no one can give you a guarantee that it will only be murder investigators that have access?
    • You don't think that governments ever abuse their authority? That is would start with murder investigators and end up with the tax man, local cops, any government contractors and more?
    Tell me, just how do you think a police state starts?
    edited February 2016 kibitzertexdeafystskmaccadwebweaselwetlanderjony0jagnuttdknoxbrian green
  • Reply 4 of 9
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 12,951member
    ed c said:
    Sign my petition to lock up Tim Cook for obstructing justice and contempt of court. And inform Apples lawyer this isnt about encryption its about bypassing the password safety feature to wipe out your drive if more than ten attempts are made with the wrong password. Get past that any cracking program could defeat apples encryption .I wonder howmany former apple customers had their kids gget a hold of their phones and try the password until the phone automattically wiped out the drive. I know i would be pissed if that happened. There is no information the average consumer stores on their phones that needs that much security that murder investigators cant get at
    No, and all others. 
    wetlanderstevehjony0jagnuttdknoxuraharafrac
  • Reply 5 of 9
    ed c said:
    Sign my petition to lock up Tim Cook for obstructing justice and contempt of court. And inform Apples lawyer this isnt about encryption its about bypassing the password safety feature to wipe out your drive if more than ten attempts are made with the wrong password. Get past that any cracking program could defeat apples encryption .I wonder howmany former apple customers had their kids gget a hold of their phones and try the password until the phone automattically wiped out the drive. I know i would be pissed if that happened. There is no information the average consumer stores on their phones that needs that much security that murder investigators cant get at
    So in your future, any law enforcement agency can force a company to write code to circumvent the security of their device? Next week will have North Korea demanding Apple do the same for them. This opens up a very large and steep slippery slope. Try not to be a "government has my best interest in mind" robot and think for a change. Maybe read the book 1984 again.
    wetlanderstevehjony0jagnuttdknoxurahara
  • Reply 6 of 9
    More than some view Ted Olson as prominent. In the law, he is about as big-time as it gets. He is also a prominent conservative. This should give pause to the Republican presidential candidates (read "all of them") demanding Apple's compliance. It won't, because it takes courage to protect liberty. But it should.
    jagnuttdknoxuraharaicoco3
  • Reply 7 of 9
    kibitzerkibitzer Posts: 1,113member
    weirdal said:
    More than some view Ted Olson as prominent. In the law, he is about as big-time as it gets. He is also a prominent conservative. This should give pause to the Republican presidential candidates (read "all of them") demanding Apple's compliance. It won't, because it takes courage to protect liberty. But it should.
    Olson truly is a respected Washington legal heavyweight. He was United States Solicitor General from 2001 to 2004, serving as chief attorney representing the federal government in cases heard by the Supreme Court. On 9/11, Olson lost his wife at the time when she was aboard the American Airlines plane that crashed into the Pentagon. His conservative credential extend back to serving as legal counsel to President Reagan during Iran-Contra. A number of the cases he has taken in private practice have involved pivotal Constitutional issues and individual rights. Apple is extremely well-served to have Olson in its corner.
    tdknoxchasm
  • Reply 8 of 9
    badmonkbadmonk Posts: 684member
    kibitzer said:
    weirdal said:
    More than some view Ted Olson as prominent. In the law, he is about as big-time as it gets. He is also a prominent conservative. This should give pause to the Republican presidential candidates (read "all of them") demanding Apple's compliance. It won't, because it takes courage to protect liberty. But it should.
    Olson truly is a respected Washington legal heavyweight. He was United States Solicitor General from 2001 to 2004, serving as chief attorney representing the federal government in cases heard by the Supreme Court. On 9/11, Olson lost his wife at the time when she was aboard the American Airlines plane that crashed into the Pentagon. His conservative credential extend back to serving as legal counsel to President Reagan during Iran-Contra. A number of the cases he has taken in private practice have involved pivotal Constitutional issues and individual rights. Apple is extremely well-served to have Olson in its corner.
    Thank you for this background report.  Apple needs an emphatic bulldog and it sounds like he fits the role.  Thanks again.
  • Reply 9 of 9
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 29,347member
    kibitzer said:
    If the government succeeds in forcing this on Apple, it will surely reap what it sows at some point. Our governmment has failed miserably in recent years protecting its own vital secrets. Some of America's most potentially dangerous espionage adversaries - the Chinese Army for example - would acquire the same hack that Apple would be forced to develop in short order. Stop beating our gums about ISIS and start worrying more about the future Edward Snowdens and Chelsea (Bradley) Mannings who gnaw at our security ffrom the inside. DOJ, beware the danger of unintended consequences.
    Or maybe our glorious leaders could just simultaneously stop undermining our Constitution and meddling in the affairs of other nations, which would theoretically eliminate the impetus to gnaw away at our security apparatus.
    edited March 2016
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