Tech giant Apple has refused a federal court order to unlock the encrypted iPhone of San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook, whose terrorist attack killed 14 people in December.
The order, issued Tuesday by Judge Sheri Pym of the District of Central California, ordered Apple to render “reasonable technical assistance” to FBI investigators trying to access data on the phone. The phone has a security measure that would erase all information after 10 incorrect password entries, leaving the FBI unable to move forward.
In an open letter published Wednesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook decried the court order, claiming that “the government is asking Apple to hack our own users and undermine decades of security advancements that protect our customers.” Cook acknowledged that Apple provides data if required to do so by a search warrant, but asserted that the encrypted data on Farook’s phone is no longer within the company’s reach. The only way to break the encryption, Cook said, would be to create new code to undermine the phone’s software, which would compromise the security of all Apple products.
In an interview with PBS NewsHour, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Cal.), Vice Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, called on Apple to comply with the court order, arguing that the information on the phone could prevent additional acts of terrorism. She further stated that if Apple refused to obey the order, it would likely lead to legislation that would force the issue.
Feinstein appeared on PBS NewsHour Wednesday night to discuss the selection of the next Supreme Court justice.