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Feds tell court: Apple 'deliberately raised technological barriers' to thwart iPhone warrant

US DoJ files fresh objections to iGiant's refusal to cooperate

The US Department of Justice has filed fresh claims against Apple in the ongoing battle over whether the FBI can force the iGiant to help agents unlock a killer's iPhone.

In a brief [PDF] filed Thursday to the US District Court of Central California, the DoJ said Apple had made a "deliberate marketing decision" to develop technology that renders search warrants useless.

That decision, we're told, is why a judge had to order Apple to build a custom version of iOS that could be loaded onto the iPhone 5C used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook. The special firmware would allow agents to safely brute-force the slain killer's passcode without it wiping itself after too many wrong tries.

Apple has refused to obey the order and produce what's being dubbed FBiOS.

"This burden [to develop the special iOS], which is not unreasonable, is the direct result of Apple's deliberate marketing decision to engineer its products so that the government cannot search them, even with a warrant," the US attorneys argue in the filing.

"In passing the All Writs Act, Congress gave courts a means of ensuring that their lawful warrants were not thwarted by third parties like Apple."

The filing then hits its stride:

Apple deliberately raised technological barriers that now stand between a lawful warrant and an iPhone containing evidence related to the terrorist mass murder of 14 Americans. Apple alone can remove those barriers so that the FBI can search the phone, and it can do so without undue burden. Under those specific circumstances, Apple can be compelled to give aid. That is not lawless tyranny. Rather, it is ordered liberty vindicating the rule of law.

Apple has argued that it should not be forced to comply with an FBI request to craft a custom build of iOS. Such an order could put millions of Americans at risk of similar requests and usher in privacy-busting surveillance of innocent citizens by the US government, Apple insisted.

The DoJ, meanwhile, says that the order would do the opposite, and would only be applicable in a single case. "The court's order is modest. It applies to a single iPhone, and it allows Apple to decide the least burdensome means of complying," Uncle Sam's lawyers wrote.

"As Apple well knows, the order does not compel it to unlock other iPhones or to give the government a universal 'master key' or 'back door'."

A number of tech companies including Amazon, Google and Microsoft have filed briefs in support of Apple.

Shortly after the DoJ filing went public, security and privacy experts began weighing in with their critiques:

Apple has yet to respond to a request for comment on the filing. ®

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