Democratic congressman asks FBI to back off Apple

March 2, 2016
In The News

February 23, 2016

By PRIYA ANAND

Market Watch

A Democratic congressman asked the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Tuesday to drop its case asking Apple to create a new version of its operating system that lacks security features.

Congress should decide whether technology companies should weaken security for law enforcement — not the courts, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) said in a letter to FBI Director Jim Comey.

Apple is due to file a court response to a judge’s order asking the company to provide “reasonable technical assistance” to the FBI in unlocking the work phone of San Bernardino, Calif. shooter Syed Rizwan Farook on Friday. Farook, with his wife, killed 14 people in December at a county holiday gathering. The FBI requested the company create a new version of its operating system that removes several security features investigators have grappled with so investigators can crack the phone.

Law enforcement’s argument uses the All Writs Act, a 1789 catchall law that says federal judges have the authority to order someone to do what they ask. Lieu points out that this law was passed “nearly 90 years before the light bulb was invented.”

 

“Trying to apply an 18th century law to a 21st century technology company should not give anyone any confidence in the result,” Lieu wrote in the letter, according to a copy provided to MarketWatch by Lieu’s office.

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook has called the order an “unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers.” The fight is playing out in public, and FBI Director Jim Comey released a letter Sunday saying Apple-backers should “stop saying the world is ending.”

Lieu also introduced a bill earlier this month that would stop states from forcing companies to weaken encryption, calling this an issue that requires a national decision.