I don’t often disagree with Attorney General Bill Barr, but on this I most certainly do.
Attorney General William Barr demanded Monday that Apple help the US government unlock two iPhones in its terror investigation of the Saudi air cadet who last month killed three sailors at a Navy training base in Pensacola, Florida. “This situation perfectly illustrates why it is critical that the public be able to get access to digital evidence,” Mr Barr said.
“The public,” not “the government” or “the police investigators.” Now, it’s clear that Barr could have been speaking metaphorically in this, so I’ll not pursue this aspect beyond pointing out the possibility of misunderstanding or of misplaced priority.
The larger matters, though, are two.
Apple has no need to help DoJ on this, neither empirically nor legally.
Empirically because DoJ is crying wolf. The agency bleated about the need for Apple’s…cooperation…after San Bernardino, and then a 3rd party cracked that phone for DoJ. Now DoJ is at it again. In the last couple of days, though, WSJ published an article listing a number of phone cracking software packages already on the market. DoJ no longer has credibility in this.
It simply wants Apple to do the DoJ work because DoJ doesn’t want to drop a dime on some software and, more, because DoJ wants to put its boot on Apple’s neck to demonstrate just who it is who’s in charge.
Legally because there is no Constitutional requirement for any private enterprise to destroy its software—which opening the software for Government, at Government’s veriest demand, would do. More, we—neither us individual citizens nor our private enterprises—are here to give Government something to do.
Government is here to work for us. That Apple’s intransigence—our intransigence generally—on this sort of thing is a matter of government convenience not a matter of compelling government investigative need.