U.S. Magistrate Judge: The U.S. government cannot force Apple to unlock an iPhone in New York drug case

“The U.S. government cannot force Apple Inc. to unlock an iPhone in a New York drug case, a federal judge in Brooklyn said on Monday, a ruling that bolsters the company’s arguments in its landmark legal showdown with the Justice Department over encryption and privacy,” Julia Harte, Julia Edwards and Julia Love report for Reuters.

“The government sought access to the phone in the Brooklyn case in October, months before a judge in California ordered Apple to take special measures to give the government access to the phone used by one of the shooters in the San Bernardino, California, attacks,” Harte, Edwards and Love report. “U.S. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein in Brooklyn ruled that he did not have the legal authority to order Apple to disable the security of an iPhone that was seized during a drug investigation.”

“His ruling echoed many of the arguments that Apple has made in the San Bernardino case, particularly his finding that a 1789 law called the All Writs Act cannot be used to force Apple to open the phone. Orenstein also found that Apple was largely exempt from complying with such requests by a 1994 law that updated wiretapping laws.,” Harte, Edwards and Love report. “The Justice Department is ‘disappointed’ in Orenstein’s ruling and plans to ask a higher judge within the same federal district to review the matter in coming days, a department representative said.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Boom! A blow for freedom has been struck!

Apple wants judge to rule if it can be forced to unlock defendant’s iPhone – February 16, 2016
Government pressure for Apple to bypass encryption reduced as iPhone owner enters guilty plea – October 31, 2015
Judge compares government request for Apple to access users’ iPhone data to execution order – October 27, 2015
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
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. “Apple wins! Ya! I know everything!”

      This case is NOT SPECIFICALLY about whether the government can unlock a particular iPhone as the judge noted. He specifically DID NOT render that decision.

      Secondly, the crime in this case is nowhere near as bad as what the current case is associated with. The courts will balance the interests of society in thier decision making. As such, they will side more with the government on this point relatively speaking. But whether it’s enough to help the government win is yet to be seen.

  1. We want to defeat terrorists. But we don’t want the government to claim the terrorists will win if we don’t comply with arbitrary government orders. That’s coercion, plain and simple.

  2. For those interested, here is the link to a PDF of the full judge’s decision as well as his conclusion:

    Click to access Orenstein-Order-Apple-iPhone-02292016.pdf


    In deciding this motion, I offer no opinion as to whether, in the circumstances of this case or others, the government’s legitimate interest in ensuring that no door is too strong to resist lawful entry should prevail against the equally legitimate societal interests arrayed against it here. Those competing values extend beyond the individual’s interest in vindicating reasonable expectations of privacy – which is not directly implicated where, as here, it must give way to the mandate of a lawful warrant. They include the commercial interest in conducting a lawful business as its owners deem most productive, free of potentially harmful government intrusion; and the far more fundamental and universal interest – important to individuals as a matter of safety, to businesses as a matter of competitive fairness, and to society as a whole as a matter of national security – in shielding sensitive electronically stored data from the myriad harms, great and small, that unauthorized access and misuse can cause.

    How best to balance those interests is a matter of critical importance to our society, and the need for an answer becomes more pressing daily, as the tide of technological advance flows ever farther past the boundaries of what seemed possible even a few decades ago. But that debate must happen today, and it must take place among legislators who are equipped to consider the technological and cultural realities of a world their predecessors could not begin to conceive. It would betray our constitutional heritage and our people’s claim to democratic governance for a judge to pretend that our Founders already had that debate, and ended it, in 1789.

    Ultimately, the question to be answered in this matter, and in others like it across the country, is not whether the government should be able to force Apple to help it unlock a specific device; it is instead whether the All Writs Act resolves that issue and many others like it yet to come. For the reasons set forth above, I conclude that it does not. The government’s motion is denied.


    Dated: Brooklyn, New York
    February 29, 2016

    JAMES ORENSTEIN U.S. Magistrate Judge

    THIS is the precedent setting decision. We’ll see what follows in March . . . 🇺🇸

    1. I like this man”s reasoning and judgment more than all the pop-eyed squawking heads on the television. I’m thinking of giving up television altogether, and moving to the hinterlands of New Zealand. No electrons, no elections. I am also considering upstate New York, home to many sensitive and upstanding citizens, as I have learnt.

    2. “[..]legislators who are equipped to consider the technological and cultural realities of a world their predecessors could not begin to conceive[..]”

      I agree wholeheartedly. However, I am not at all sure that the majority of legislators are equipped to render such a decision.

  3. WTF. This is not terrorism. It is not a single iPhone. It is the real agenda that law enforcement is proffering of expanding the All Writs Act to include any crime, not just terrorism. In reality, this is the exact scenario of every dystopian totalitarian future, in which the government has brainwashed the public into giving up their rights by fear mongering and attacking the patriotism of their enemies. Abuse of power is irresistible to those in power.

  4. wow, a USA judge that sides with Apple and actually writes with some sense and understanding of the technological issues…

    I feel the urge to buy a lotto ticket or something…

    Jony Ive might actually break into a grin … 🙂

    just joking guys, as an apple fan and shareholder I am very happy.

  5. Ah I’m glad this got posted, even from a different news sources it’s great to read that there is still a semblance of intelligence and morality being demonstrated. This is certainly going to be a debated and a half.

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