Federal judge rules Apple cannot be forced to aid in NY iPhone unlocking, cites 'unreasonable burde

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 2016
Apple was handed a crucial win in its fight for encryption on Monday, as a New York federal judge denied a government All Writs Act-based motion to compel Apple's assistance in bypassing the encryption safeguards of an iPhone linked to a years-old drug case.




In his ruling, New York Magistrate Judge James Orenstein decided the government lacks legal authority to force Apple, or indeed any company, to break its own digital security protocols. Echoing Apple's arguments against Department of Justice overtures in the high-profile San Bernardino attack investigation, today's decision noted the "unreasonable burden" in inventing, coding and distributing a purposely vulnerable operating system in hopes of cracking existing device security.

The New York case dates back to June 2014, when warrants were issued to search the residences of suspected drug trafficker Jun Feng and his associates. The Drug Enforcement Agency subsequently recovered several mobile devices connected to the criminal investigation, including Feng's iPhone 5s running iOS 7.

As noted by Judge Orenstein, the DEA did not attempt to glean information from the iPhone in question until July 2015 despite months of case prosecution. Acting on a warrant to search, the DEA was unable to thwart the iPhone's passcode protection, prompting a call for assistance to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Also unable to crack Apple's iOS encryption, the FBI filed a data retrieval request to Apple itself. As it did at least 70 times previously, Apple said it could and would help obtain as much information as possible short of breaking the phone's installed security measures.

In October, the government filed a motion to compel Apple's assistance in bypassing Feng's passcode to examine data stored directly on the device. The filing relied exclusively on the All Writs Act of 1789, today's decision says.

Judge Orenstein offers a scathing critique of the FBI's use of All Writs, as well as other judicial instruments, to effect its decryption operations.

It is also clear that the government has made the considered decision that it is better off securing such crypto-legislative authority from the courts (in proceedings that had always been, at the time it filed the instant Application, shielded from public scrutiny) rather than taking the chance that open legislative debate might produce a result less to its liking.

The FBI dispensed with behind-closed-doors tactics in the San Bernardino case, however, making outright public pleas to curry favor in an investigation involving a locked iPhone 5c used by terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook. As it did in New York, Apple is fighting the Justice Department's AWA demands, but the sensitive nature of the San Bernardino attack has attached an immediacy to the government's case not seen in other data request filings.

The All Writs Act, or rather a reading of the law, sits at the heart of government assertions to compel Apple's aid. However, some question the validity of such arguments, saying that a successful invocation of AWA could lead to sweeping, unchecked authority over strong encryption systems and the firms produce them. Taking a purely judicial route without involving Congress is particularly worrisome, especially for a society so reliant on high technology. Judge Orenstein agrees.

Its preferred reading of the law - which allows a court to confer on the executive branch any investigative authority Congress has decided to withhold, so long as it has not affirmatively outlawed it - would transform the AWA from a limited gap-filing statute that ensures the smooth functioning of the judiciary itself into a mechanism for upending the separation of powers by delegating to the judiciary a legislative power bounded only by Congress's superior ability to prohibit or preempt.


Apple's vocal opposition to unlocking Farook's iPhone sparked debate over how best to balance civil rights and national security. CEO Tim Cook, for example, said on multiple occasions that giving in to government demands sets a dangerous precedent both domestically and in the international arena.

For its part, the government maintains that its motion to compel relates to one iPhone -- Farook's -- and does not in any way represent a "master key" to iOS.

boopthesnootanantksundarambrakken
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 28
    Cryptonite.
    brakkenjony0
  • Reply 2 of 28
    Great news!!!
    radarthekattdknoxanton zuykovlostkiwianantksundarammagman1979
  • Reply 3 of 28
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 29,346member
    The precedent they've been needing. Huuuuuuuuge!
    radarthekatmanfred zornnolamacguytdknoxanton zuykovlostkiwianantksundarammagman1979brakkenpscooter63
  • Reply 4 of 28
    Confused?   Where did this case come from?  I thought the FBI said the terrorist case was a one time deal.   How do you lie like that and get away with it?
    anantksundaramlostkiwijony0
  • Reply 5 of 28
    "Its preferred reading of the law - which allows a court to confer on the executive branch any investigative authority Congress has decided to withhold, so long as it has not affirmatively outlawed it - would transform the AWA from a limited gap-filing statute that ensures the smooth functioning of the judiciary itself into a mechanism for upending the separation of powers by delegating to the judiciary a legislative power bounded only by Congress's superior ability to prohibit or preempt."

    VERY well put! Enforce the laws, don't try and say that you can do anything you want as long as there is NOT a law against it.
    cyberzombieradarthekattdknoxSpamSandwichronnbrakkenpscooter63jony0
  • Reply 6 of 28
    christophbchristophb Posts: 1,413member
    #noshitsherlock should be trending
    radarthekatanantksundaramtdknoxlostkiwimagman1979jony0
  • Reply 7 of 28
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 862member
    Confused?   Where did this case come from?  I thought the FBI said the terrorist case was a one time deal.   How do you lie like that and get away with it?
    It is a one time deal... They only need to win once, Apple needs to every time.
    radarthekattdknoxSpamSandwichlostkiwibrakkenspinnyd
  • Reply 8 of 28
    jax44 said:
    Cryptonite.

    I'm just wondering what type of investigation Apple sees as worthwhile.   Let's say someone doesn't like Al Gore, whom is a former Vice President in America, and a Director at Apple.  Then what happens?

    Just sayin'.
  • Reply 9 of 28
    A Federal magistrate is the lowest ranking federal judicial officer. His ruling is not precedent and not binding outside of the specific case. Such opinions are usually not even published, except in the media.
  • Reply 10 of 28
    I expect this to be appealed but now the Feds have to make a more compelling case to overturn. And also remember that this is only in one of the US District Courts the Feds have filed in.Most likely they are "fishing" in looking for a "friendly" Appellate court. Should the Appellate courts be divided, it would go to the Supremes. The magistrates decision look reasonable and the Fed will get no joy from Congress as they will not like to cede any power or permissions to the Administrative branch, not in this day and age.
    lostkiwi
  • Reply 11 of 28
    Urei1620Urei1620 Posts: 88member
    I agree with this ruling 100%

    Congratulations Apple!
    lostkiwimagman1979brakken
  • Reply 12 of 28
    gbdocgbdoc Posts: 44member
    Confused?   Where did this case come from?  I thought the FBI said the terrorist case was a one time deal.   How do you lie like that and get away with it?

    Don’t be so harsh. After all, like the All Writs Act, it all depends on your reading. In the FBI’s current reading, “this time” was “one time”. Other times, too, past and present, are each also only “one times”. Of course, it could happen that if any single “one time” were granted by the courts, the FBI might, it just might, subsequently change it’s current reading, so that that “one-time” case would thenceforth be cited by them as precedent, transforming “one time” into “all times”. This isn’t lying, it’s just inventive use of language, as the need arises. Words often mean only what you want them to mean, no more, no less, and meaning is in the eye of the beholder.

    edited February 2016 lostkiwispinnyd
  • Reply 13 of 28
    anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 18,510member
    I have no doubt there're many others winding their way through various courts. At some point, the decision will be split (the law enforcement people will keep going until they get a different decision), and it'll all have to be ultimately settled by the Supreme Court.

    They might as well send it right there....
    lostkiwicnocbui
  • Reply 14 of 28
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,544member
    A just ruling. Ball's in your court, FBI. Do the right thing and don't tread on me. 
    lostkiwijkichline
  • Reply 15 of 28
    bottlcaps said:
    I expect this to be appealed but now the Feds have to make a more compelling case to overturn. And also remember that this is only in one of the US District Courts the Feds have filed in.Most likely they are "fishing" in looking for a "friendly" Appellate court. Should the Appellate courts be divided, it would go to the Supremes. The magistrates decision look reasonable and the Fed will get no joy from Congress as they will not like to cede any power or permissions to the Administrative branch, not in this day and age.
    DOJ is going to damage itself if it pushes this and the issue stays in the public eye.
    SpamSandwichpalomine
  • Reply 16 of 28
    jfc1138jfc1138 Posts: 3,090member
    A Federal magistrate is the lowest ranking federal judicial officer. His ruling is not precedent and not binding outside of the specific case. Such opinions are usually not even published, except in the media.
    Just like U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym in California then. 
    edited February 2016 anantksundaramlostkiwikibitzercnocbuiicoco3
  • Reply 17 of 28
    anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 18,510member
    jfc1138 said:
    A Federal magistrate is the lowest ranking federal judicial officer. His ruling is not precedent and not binding outside of the specific case. Such opinions are usually not even published, except in the media.
    A Federal magistrate is the lowest ranking federal judicial officer. His ruling is not precedent and not binding outside of the specific case. Such opinions are usually not even published, except in the media.
    ----- 
    Just like U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym in California then. 
    LOL. Pwned.
    edited February 2016 lostkiwimagman1979suddenly newtoncnocbui
  • Reply 18 of 28
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,544member
    Maybe so but the patriot act allows the Government to arrest and ship someone off to Bulgari who provides aid to enemies of the United States.And I'm not just saying
    I'll bite. It's not Apple's phone nor does it have access to the contents. It's like blaming Ford for aiding OJ on his highway chase. 
    brakkenjkichlineSpamSandwichspinnyd
  • Reply 19 of 28
    freerangefreerange Posts: 1,581member
    jax44 said:
    Cryptonite.

    I'm just wondering what type of investigation Apple sees as worthwhile.   Let's say someone doesn't like Al Gore, whom is a former Vice President in America, and a Director at Apple.  Then what happens?

    Just sayin'.
    Please go find somewhere else to park your stupidity.
    brakken
  • Reply 20 of 28
    freerangefreerange Posts: 1,581member
    A Federal magistrate is the lowest ranking federal judicial officer. His ruling is not precedent and not binding outside of the specific case. Such opinions are usually not even published, except in the media.
    It doesn't matter. He made his ruling. Period.
    edited March 2016
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