Feds launch new effort to access NYC iPhone's data
Feds launch new effort to access NYC iPhone's data published by Evanvinh
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Posted on 2016-03-09
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NEW YORK - Federal lawyers Monday launched a new legal effort to compel Apple's assistance in gaining access to a New York City drug suspect's iPhone data.
Seeking to overturn a ruling against the government last week, the Department of Justice asked a Brooklyn federal court to approve a renewed application under the All Writs Act, the 18th century statute they said Apple complied with when they sought similar help from the company in dozens of similar past cases.
The renewed application echoed some of the arguments used by government lawyers as they battle Apple in an effort to gain similar access to the iPhone data of San Bernardino, Calif. terror attack shooter Syed Rizwan Farook.
Government investigators have been unable to get access to data on either of the iPhones because the devices are locked with a passcode. Efforts to bypass the phones' lock screens without Apple's help would risk destroying some or all of the data secured inside.
"This case in no way upends the balance between privacy and security," prosecutors wrote in a 46-page legal brief that challenged the rationale Magistrate Judge James Orenstein relied on for his Feb. 29 ruling that the All Writs Act did not properly apply to the government's request.
"The Constitution has already struck the relevant balance: it protects the people's privacy 'in their persons, houses papers and effects,' but permits reasonable searches including ones were the government has a warrant," prosecutors wrote. "Here, the government has a warrant. And a longstanding federal statute provides this court with the authority to require Apple to assist with that warrant."
Apple has said that it challenges court orders if there is any question about the legal legitimacy or scope of the government demand.
"Judge Orenstein ruled the FBI’s request would 'thoroughly undermine fundamental principles of the Constitution’ and we agree," Apple said in a statement issued Monday night. "We share the Judge’s concern that misuse of the All Writs Act would start us down a slippery slope that threatens everyone’s safety and privacy."
In contrast with the Brooklyn case, a federal judge in California ordered Apple to comply with the legal request for help gaining access to data on Farook's iPhone. Apple last week filed an appeal of that ruling.
The Brooklyn federal court case focuses on Jun Feng, a Queens, N.Y. defendant who pleaded guilty in October to a methamphetamine conspiracy. Investigators sought access to his iPhone 5 as they continue to investigate other aspects of the alleged plot.
Apple has confirmed it can provide the assistance sought by the government, as it has done in the past, and has said "doing so would pose no significant burden to the company," government lawyers wrote.
Their legal brief said the Brooklyn federal court retains "supervision and control" of the legal dispute delegated to Orenstein, who ranks below a U.S. District Court judge. As a result, they asked the court to weigh the resubmitted application as if it were a newly-filed legal matter.
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