The Justice Department conjured a historical figure to find legal precedent in its duel with Apple over encryption.
The government maintains that its request that Apple disable the security on a phone used by one of the San Bernardino assailants has plenty of legal precedent.
Take, for example, the 1807 treason trial of Aaron Burr, in which a clerk for the former vice president was ordered to decipher a coded letter — arguably a crude form of decryption.
Despite evidence that Burr had been plotting to raise a rebellion and overtake a portion of the western territories in the United States and other evidence that Burr was planning to lead an unauthorized invasion of Mexico, the defendant was acquitted by a jury on both the treason and high misdemeanor charges in trial presided over by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall.
The government would like to be clear: The FBI isn’t asking Apple to “provide decryption services” to the government — just move away the guard dogs so federal investigators could pick the lock without losing evidence to the phone’s auto-erase feature.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.