- The Washington Times - Friday, February 19, 2016

The Justice Department escalated an already contentious battle with Apple on Friday, saying the tech giant’s resistance to a court order that would force it to unlock an iPhone for law enforcement is based on concern for its “reputation and marketing strategy.”

Justice Department lawyers made the accusation in a motion filed Friday to compel Apple to immediately comply with an earlier court order that has to do with the cell phone that belonged to now-deceased San Bernardino gunman Syed Rizwan Farook. Investigators are seeking access to data on the phone to piece together more information about the Dec. 2 terrorist attack that killed 14 people.

In the motion, lawyers deconstructed opposition that Apple CEO Tim Cook expressed about the court order in an open letter published on the company’s website, noting that the company “did not assert that it lacks the technical capability to execute the Order, that it is not essential to gaining access into the iPhone, or that it would be too time- or labor-intensive.”

Instead, it noted that Apple’s opposition stemmed from “a perceived negative impact on its reputation and marketing strategy were it to provide the ordered assistance to the government.”

Apple has not yet filed any appeal in the case, but Mr. Cook’s letter called the implications of the government’s request “chilling” and indicated the company intends to challenge the ruling.

“The government is asking Apple to hack our own users and undermine decades of security advancements that protect our customers — including tens of millions of American citizens — from sophisticated hackers and cybercriminals,” Mr. Cook wrote.

The ruling issued Tuesday would require Apple to provide technical assistance to the FBI so that agents could attempt to break the four-digit password that protects the work-issued cellphone belonging to Farook. Apple would be required to create a way to bypass a security feature that wipes all data from the iPhone after the password is incorrectly too many times. With that feature suspended, investigators could then attempt to enter all four-digit password combinations until they find the right one to unlock the phone.

The company has a week to respond to the order, with a the due date for responsive brief pushed back by several days to Feb. 26. A hearing has also been set for March 22 in the case.

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