As Apple and the FBI head to another hearing on the San Bernardino iPhone case, both sides are growing more aggressive — and the exchange is quickly turning negative. Hours ago, federal prosecutors filed a motion that said "Apple’s rhetoric is not only false, but also corrosive of the very institutions that are best able to safeguard our liberty and our rights." The government also pushed back against Apple's concerns over the "backdoor" to iPhone making its way to the wrong hands. "Far from being a master key, the software simply disarms a booby trap affixed to one door." Well, Apple isn't very pleased with the government's latest filing.
The company just held a conference call with members of the press, describing the prosecution's motion as a "cheap shot" brief that takes away from the debate over consumer privacy and encryption's role in preserving it. But Bruce Sewell, Apple's general counsel and SVP of legal, had harsher words still. He accused the government of trying to "vilify Apple" on unsubstantiated theories.
"Everyone should beware, because it seems like disagreeing with the Department of Justice means you must be evil and anti-American," he said in an on-the-record statement. "Nothing could be further from the truth." Attorneys for Apple voiced disappointment with all the negativity, having previously thought that the debate was on a respectful trajectory as recently as March 1st's House committee hearing. The executives reinforced that there are good people working at both the DoJ and FBI, and expressed hope that the debate will get back on track as it presses on.
Sewell's comments follow below, with all emphasis added by The Verge.
The tone of the brief reads like an indictment. We’ve all heard director Comey and Attorney General Lynch thank Apple for its consistent help in working with law enforcement. Director Comey’s own statement…that there are no demons here? We certainly wouldn’t conclude it from this brief. In 30 years of practice, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a legal brief that was more intended to smear the other side with false accusations and innuendo, and less intended to focus on the real merits of the case. For the first time ever, we see an allegation that Apple has deliberately made changes to block law enforcement requests for access. This should be deeply offensive to everyone that reads it. An unsupported, unsubstantiated effort to vilify Apple rather than confront the issues in the case.
To do this in a brief before a magistrate judge just shows the desperation that the Department of Justice now feels. We would never respond in kind. But imagine Apple asking a court whether the FBI could be trusted because, there is this real question about whether J. Edgar Hoover ordered the assassination of Kennedy. See ConspiracyTheory.com as our supporting evidence. We add security features to protect our customers from hackers and criminals. And the FBI should be helping to support us in this because it keeps everyone safe. To suggest otherwise is demeaning. It cheapens the debate and it tries the mask the real and serious issues. I can only conclude that the DoJ is so desperate at this point that it has thrown all decorum to the winds.
Look, we know there are great people in the DoJ and the FBI. We work shoulder to shoulder with them all the time. That’s why this cheap shot brief surprises us so much. We help when we’re asked to. We’re honest about what we can and can’t do. Let’s at least treat one another with respect and get this case before the American people in a responsible way. We are going to court to exercise our legal rights. Everyone should beware, because it seems like disagreeing with the Department of Justice means you must be evil and anti-American. Nothing could be further from the truth.