A 1789 law has become the crux of an ongoing legal battle between the U.S. government and Apple.
In a legal brief filed Tuesday, the iPhone maker maintained that the All Writs Act should not apply to this case, at least in part because the Constitution forbids it.
The 200-year-old statute gives federal courts wide latitude over issuing and enforcing warrants. But it does not, according to Apple, authorize the Justice Department and FBI’s request that the company create backdoor access to a terrorist’s smartphone.
Cupertino rejected the government’s demand to build a new operating system that could unlock an iPhone 5c owned by one of the San Bernardino shooters. CEO Tim Cook is concerned that if the software fell into the wrong hands, it could do serious damage to the security of iPhones around the world.
“The All Writs Act cannot be stretched to fit this case,” Apple’s brief said. “The government attempts to rewrite history by portraying the Act as an all-powerful magic wand rather than the limited procedural tool it is.
“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 filing continued. “The [country’s] Founders would be appalled.”
Cupertino’s Tuesday brief was a response to a recent DOJ court filing, suggesting that the company’s rhetoric “is not only false, but also corrosive.”
The agency emphasized that sentiment in a statement to PCMag, saying that the Constitution and federal government “should be entrusted to strike the balance between each citizen’s right to privacy,” and that the laws of the United States “do not vest that power in a single corporation.”
“We look forward to responding to Apple’s arguments before the court on March 22,” the DOJ added.
Cook, meanwhile, should watch his back on his next trip to the Sunshine State: Central Florida Sheriff Grady Judd this week threatened to arrest the Apple CEO, should the tech giant fail to decrypt an iPhone at Judd’s request.