Apple likely to invoke free-speech rights in encryption fight

San Francisco: Apple Inc will likely seek to invoke the United States' protections of free speech as one of its key legal arguments in trying to block an order to help unlock the encrypted iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters, lawyers with expertise in the subject said this week.

Apple CEO Tim Cook

The tech giant and the Obama administration are on track for a major collision over computer security and encryption after a federal magistrate judge in Los Angeles handed down an order on Tuesday requiring Apple to provide specific software and technical assistance to investigators.

Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook (pictured above) called the request from the Federal Bureau of Investigation unprecedented. Apple has retained two prominent, free-speech lawyers to do battle with the government, according to court papers: Theodore Olson, who won the political-speech case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in 2010, and Theodore Boutrous, who frequently represents media organizations.

Government lawyers from the U.S. Justice Department have defended their request in court papers by citing various authorities, such as a 1977 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld an order compelling a telephone company to provide assistance with setting up a device to record telephone numbers.

The high court said then that the All Writs Act, a law from 1789, authorized the order, and the scope of that ruling is expected to be a main target of Apple when it files a response in court by early next week.

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