Judge compares government request for Apple to access users’ iPhone data to execution order

“Ordering Apple to access data against its will would be akin to making a reluctant drug company carry out a lethal injection, a US judge has said,” BBC News reports.

“Judge James Orenstein was hearing a US government request to make it retrieve information from a locked iPhone seized by law enforcement officers. On Monday, the judge expressed doubt that he had the authority to do so,” The Beeb reports. “Referring to the US Department of Justice’s request for him to order Apple to help it unlock the phone, the judge said: ‘What you’re asking [Apple] to do is do work for you.’ And he compared the request to a hypothetical one in which the government was asking him to order a drug company to take part in an execution against its conscientious objection.”

“Apple has argued that the order the government is seeking would be burdensome, in part because of the erosion of its customers’ trust,” The Beeb reports. “The company also said it lacked the technical ability to unlock phones running its newer operating systems, iOS8 and iOS9, though the phone at issue in the case runs an older system.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Again:

Because the U.S. government spooks trampled all over the U.S. Constitution, constantly demanding that Apple grant access to customers devices, Apple decided to remove themselves for the equation. And so, the government reaps what it hath sown. We guess law enforcement will have to get off their asses and do some old-fashioned leg work if they want to crack cases.

U.S. judge expresses doubts over forcing Apple to unlock iPhone – October 26, 2015
US DOJ claims Apple lacks legal standing to refuse iPhone unlock order – October 23, 2015
Apple tells U.S. judge it can’t unlock iPhones running iOS 8 or higher – October 20, 2015
a href=”http://macdailynews.com/2015/10/20/apple-ceo-cook-defends-encryption-opposes-back-door-for-government-spies/”>Apple CEO Cook defends encryption, opposes back door for government spies – October 20, 2015
With Apple court order, activist federal judge seeks to fuel debate about data encryption – October 12, 2015
Judge declines to order Apple to disable security on device seized by U.S. government – October 10, 2015
Apple refused to give iMessages to the U.S. government – September 8, 2015
Obama administration war against Apple just got uglier – July 31, 2015
Edward Snowden: Apple is a privacy pioneer – June 5, 2015
U.S. Senate blocks measures to extend so-called Patriot Act; NSA’s bulk collection of phone records in jeopardy – May 23, 2015
Rand Paul commandeers U.S. Senate to protest so-called Patriot Act, government intrusion on Americans’ privacy – May 20, 2015
Apple, others urge Obama to reject any proposal for smartphone backdoors – May 19, 2015
U.S. appeals court rules NSA bulk collection of phone data illegal – May 7, 2015
In open letter to Obama, Apple, Google, others urge Patriot Act not be renewed – March 26, 2015
Apple’s iOS encryption has ‘petrified’ the U.S. administration, governments around the world – March 19, 2015


  1. “We guess law enforcement will have to get off their asses and do some old-fashioned leg work if they want to crack cases.”

    That assumes they can get the funding to hire the legs that will be needed. That has hardly a snowball’s chance in hell.

    1. Well maybe if they took some of billions they’re throwing away hiring incompetent people for the TSA who couldn’t get a real job, they might just be able to.
      Strip searching little kids and old ladies doesn’t make me feel one bit more secure.

  2. As I asked at much greater length in a posting yesterday on this issue, how will “old-fashioned leg work” crack this case? The government has already “got off their asses” and assembled enough evidence to obtain a search warrant for the phone in question, but no amount of “leg work” is going to get them past the encryption. If they hadn’t run out of other options to prove the defendant’s guilt, they wouldn’t be spending all these resources on this court case. They may even have co-conspirator statements, but those are inadmissible without corroboration.

    Are you suggesting that the investigators go out to the barn and search the defendant’s horse stalls and carriage for incriminating records written out in longhand? Is that “old-fashioned” enough?

    I don’t blame Apple for protecting its customer relations. It isn’t their problem that “old-fashioned leg work” has been outmoded by modern technology that makes it possible for criminals to hide the evidence of their guilt behind encryption that is—for practical purposes—too tough to crack on a routine basis, even with proper judicial warrants.

    That is a social problem that will not be helped by those who are apparently perfectly happy to let criminal predators go free to ravage their victims just to make an ideological point about the evil of even the best possible real-world government.

    I’m not foolish enough to think that there are no blameworthy cops. I’ll bet I’ve met more of them than any of you have. However, I have met far fewer blameless criminals. What I have met the most of is innocent victims. They deserve justice, not some sort of bilgewater about how they will have to make sacrifices for the sake of an absolute personal freedom that the Founders did not imagine and could never have imagined.

    1. Seriously, what could be on the phone that would the only thing in this case to convict? He’s charged with distribution of meth. Does he have a secret formula on his phone? Duh, no

      They have what they need for a conviction, they’re just trying to use the case to break Apple, trying to use the case to cast Apple in the most evil light.

      God help Apple if they catch a child porn addict with an iPhone, you’ll never hear the end of it then

      1. Let’s keep this simple: To convict someone for distribution, you have to prove he provided drugs to somebody. If the somebody was an undercover officer, great. If it was a junkie, the buyer was part of the criminal enterprise and his testimony is legally insufficient for a conviction without corroboration. The witness might also invoke the 5th and refuse to testify if there is no independent evidence to hold over him. So, if there were no security cameras or uninvolved witnesses to the transaction, the prosecutors need the phone to provide the necessary corroboration (like an address book entry or IM tying the seller to the purchaser), OK? They may also need the phone to show that the defendant is more than just a one-time offender.

        There is no evidence that they already have what they need for a conviction. If they did, they wouldn’t be going to all this trouble. Except on TV, prosecutor’s offices do not have the resources to fool around with cases unless the effort might alter the outcome. Whatever the inclination of the DOJ in Washington, this case is in the hands of the local U.S. Attorney, whose assistants are far too busy to fool around with policy crusades.

        At least you understand that the public may not be quite so sympathetic with Apple’s position if the next defendant who walks is a child pornographer. It will certainly happen, since all the fools stupid enough to keep unencrypted images are already in jail. The ones left on the outside have kept their images and correspondence, including their payments to facilitate human trafficking, on secure devices. Sooner or later, there is going to be a clear case of someone who has been left free to attack a child because the police who knew he liked them could not prove it because his phone was encrypted.

        Apple has a perfect right to do what it is doing. So does the prosecutor. Ultimately, society is going to have to make decisions about whether we will tolerate high levels of crime as the cost of preserving absolute privacy.

    2. Already jumped in and decided that the phone in question belongs to a criminal, have we? Warrant means they are looking for evidence; also means that silly little “innocent until proven guilty” clause still applies and there is no actual fact of crime in play.

      Accept the fact that phones are not useful tools for law enforcement; which is an unintended side effect of them not being as useful to identity thieves, hackers and other actual criminals.

      Fair trade; better to keep everyone out…

      1. I haven’t assumed that the phone belongs to a criminal. We won’t know that unless he is convicted. What I can assume is that a neutral and impartial federal magistrate who has heard all the evidence has determined that there is enough probable cause—i.e., actual facts indicating a crime—to authorize a warrant to seize and search the phone.

        Collecting evidence is what warrants are for, so the encryption has frustrated a clear Constitutional intent. Without evidence, defendants will never be convicted so they will be “presumed innocent” forever as a matter of law. That does not mean that they really are innocent, or that their victims were any less harmed by them.

        I agree with you. As a result of encryption intended to keep out private (and state) intruders, phones and other digital devices are no longer useful tools for law enforcement. We may all have to accept that. I do not agree that it is necessarily a fair trade. Neither will you if your life savings are stolen by a swindler or your children abused by a molester who will never be convicted because all the admissible evidence was kept on a secure device.

  3. Get a cattle prod and insert it in the twink’s sphincter and light him up while you frog march him to his Sodomite cell until he agrees to stop killers, murderers, terrorists and Pelosi-type traitors from harming our society. Teddy …. Bzzzzzzzzzz! LOL!

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