Apple CEO Vows to Challenge Court Order to Assist in San Bernardino Shooting Investigation

The encryption debate continues.

A court order compelling Apple Inc. to assist the FBI in obtaining access to the data contained in the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters was issued on February 16, 2016.  Since then, Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, has released a letter addressed to customers vowing to challenge the court order in the name of privacy.

In essence, the FBI is asking Apple to develop a program that would circumvent features of the operating system that would allow the FBI to break the password currently blocking access to the contents of the phone.  Without such a program, the FBI will be forced to use a brute-force method to guess the password, which may take days or years.  But this is an active counter-terrorism investigation, can the FBI afford to take years to investigate whether the perpetrators are a larger part of a cell, or to determine what precipitated the attacks in the first place?

It is important to understand that the government has presented Apple with a properly issued court order.  Tim Cook’s argument that the FBI’s use of the All Writs Act of 1789 instead of “asking for legislative action through Congress” is more of a policy argument instead of a legal argument.  Further, Cook argued that giving the government this ability will open the door for the FBI to use the capability to “reach into anyone’s device.”  This slippery slope argument is all too familiar.  Cook obviously feels strongly about this issue, perhaps he and others who take the same position should pursue change through the political process as he suggested law enforcement to do.

In the end, when a court order is properly issued, the recipient is obligated, legally, to comply.

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Professor William Snyder

Professor William C. Snyderis a member of the faculty of the Institute for National Security and Counter-terrorism at Syracuse University after fifteen years with the United States Department of Justice.

Ryan D. White

Ryan D. WhiteRyan is currently a third year law student at Syracuse University College of Law, and is also pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree from Syracuse’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Ryan spent time with Homeland Security Investigations while pursuing his undergraduate degree at Wesleyan University, and spent his first summer of law school as clerk for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of New York. He is a member of Syracuse Law Review, the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and participates in the Veteran’s Legal Clinic. Full biography

Shelby E. Mann

Ryan D. WhiteShelby is a second year law student at the Syracuse University College of Law. During her final year at the University of Missouri, she served as a full-time news producer for ABC 17 News. Shelby spent her first summer of law school at the Shelby County District Attorney General's Office in Memphis, Tenn., in the Public Corruption and Economic Crimes Unit. She is a member of Syracuse Law Review, the Journal on Terrorism and Security Analysis, and the senior editor for the Syrian Accountability Project. Full biography

Christopher w. FolkChristopher W. Folk

is a 2017 graduate of SU College of Law. A non-traditional student, Christopher returned to academia after spending nearly twenty years in the high tech industry. Christopher served in the Marine Corps, graduated from Cornell University with a B.S. In Applied Economics and Business Management, attended Northeastern University’s High-Tech MBA Program and received a M.S. In Computer Information Systems. Christopher previously worked in Software Engineering. Christopher is currently serving his second term as Town Justice for the Town of Waterloo. Christopher externed with a Cybersecurity firm in the Washington, D.C. area between his first and second year at SU College of Law. Full biography

Anna Maria Castillo

Anna Maria Castillois 2016 graduate of Syracuse College of Law. She also holds a Master of Arts in International Relations from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. She has interned at a London-based think-tank that specializes in transnational terrorism and global security and at the legal department of a defense contractor. She served as an executive editor in the Syracuse Law Review. Full biography

Jennifer A. CamilloJennifer A. Camillo

is a 2015 graduate of Syracuse College of Law and is a prosecutor. She has served as a law clerk in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York and the Cayuga County District Attorney’s Office and as an extern in the Oneida County District Attorney’s Office. She was a member of the Syracuse National Trial Team and was awarded the Tiffany Cup by the New York Bar Association for her trial advocacy achievements.

Tara J. PistoreseTara J. Pistorese

holds Juris Doctor and Masters of Public Administration degrees from Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and its College of Law. She wrote for this blog when a student. She is now a member of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps.

Benjamin Zaiser

is both a scholar and a Federal Agent of the Federal Criminal Police Office of Germany. (Opinions expressed here are his own and not any part of official duty.) Full biography