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Feds Say Apple's Stand Against the FBI Is Just a PR Stunt

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The Department of Justice has filed for a court order to compel Apple to assist it in unlocking the phone that belonged to one of the dead San Bernardino shooters. “Apple is not above the law,” it reads.

If this sounds familiar, that’s because there is already a court order covering the exact same case, which was handed down earlier this week. Tim Cook publicly challenged the order, which has galvanized a discussion on security and tech companies’ cooperation with law enforcement.


Today’s motion is for a court order to compel Apply to comply with the initial court order. (Ahhh, the legal process.) The distinction with the old order is that the new one is way surlier. “Apple’s current refusal to comply with the Court’s Order, despite the technical feasibility of doing so, instead appears to be based on concern for its business model and brand marketing strategy,” it reads. In other words: This is just good PR.


Apple’s legal response to the initial court order is due February 26, and the government is due to respond March 5—after which Apple will have up until March 15 to respond with a brief.

The DOJ doesn’t want to wait that long, and views Tim Cook’s public response as the equivalent to the response the company would give in court. In this new motion, the DOJ stresses the urgency of the investigation:

Apple’s public statement makes clear that Apple will not comply with the Court’s Order. The government does not deny Apple its right to be heard, and expects these issues to be fully briefed before the Court; however, the urgency of this investigation requires this motion now that Apple has made its intentions not to comply patently clear.

In case there was any ambiguity about whether the DOJ thinks Apple is being irresponsible, the motion essentially states that Apple designed a phone to mess up law enforcement. “Apple designed its software and that design interferes with the execution of search warrants,” the motion reads.

The DOJ also stresses that it didn’t necessarily need to file a second order:


While it is obviously true that Tim Cook’s statement against complying with the is excellent PR for Apple, this does not make the position wrong. At any rate, the lesson today, in case there was any question at all, is that the DOJ means business.

Image: Getty