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Apple Calls on Court to 'Zealously Guard' Civil Liberties

The San Bernardino case shouldn't be considered in a vacuum, the company argues.

Bryan Thomas / Getty

Apple on Tuesday once again urged the courts to reject an earlier order that it help federal investigators hack an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino attackers, arguing the courts should not step in to resolve a policy issue that has divided the government.

In a brief, the company reiterated its earlier arguments that the 200-plus-year-old All Writs Act cannot be “stretched to fit” the case. Attorneys for Apple argue that the government is engaging in a bit of “wishful thinking” in portraying the act as a broad, adaptable tool that the courts can wield to draft private parties to help the government.

“The government attempts to rewrite history by portraying the Act as an all-powerful magic wand rather than the limited procedural tool that it is,” Apple argued, adding, “According to the government, short of kidnapping or breaking an express law, the courts can order private parties to do virtually anything the Justice Department and FBI can dream up.

“The Founders would be appalled.”

Apple also rejected the government’s argument that the court’s decision should be made in a vacuum — focused narrowly on one device, used in a single case — while ignoring the broader national encryption debate about the dangers of mandating a “back door” that it argues would endanger the security and privacy of millions of citizens.

The judge must consider the broader context to determine whether this collision between public safety and privacy is a matter that should be resolved in the courts, Apple asserts in court documents.

“This case arises in a difficult context after a terrible tragedy,” Apple argued in today’s filing. “But it is in just such highly charged and emotional cases that the courts must zealously guard civil liberties and the rule of law and reject government overreaching.”

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