The U.S. Justice Department yesterday filed to the court of U.S. District Judge Margo Brodie, in the hopes to overturn a New York federal judge’s ruling that Apple could not be forced to help investigators to unlock the iPhone of a suspected drug dealer.
Last week, magistrate Judge James Orenstein ruled that the FBI lacked the legal authority to force Apple to bypass the iPhone’s passcode, and that the prosecution’s use of the 1789 All Writs Act was an unconstitutional overreach.
“In light of the debate that has recently come to surround this issue, it is worth briefly noting what this case is not about,” the Justice Department’s court filing said. “Apple is not being asked to do anything it does not currently have the capability to do.”
In the filing, the government cited the case regarding the iPhone 5c of the San Bernardino gunman as evidence that the All Writs Act can indeed be used to force a company such as Apple to unlock a device.
“Meanwhile, in the Central District Court of California on February 16, 2016, the government obtained an All Writs Act order requiring Apple to assist law enforcement in accessing the phone of one of the shooters involved in the mass murders in San Bernardino, California,” lawyers for the Justice Department said in the filing.
The New York case concerns a device used by Jun Feng, who has pleaded guilty to participation in a methamphetamine distribution conspiracy. The Justice Department hopes to unlock his phone in order to gain leads to find other conspirators.
While the iPhone in the San Bernardino case has iOS 9 installed, Feng’s iPhone is running iOS 7, which does not have the same encryption technology used on iPhones as of iOS 8 and later.
Apple has complied in previous cases involving iPhones running iOS 7 and earlier, as the company is able to retrieve data from those devices without needing to unlock them. Apple’s specific issue with this case is the government’s use of the over 200-year-old All Writs Act to compel them to cooperate.