Apple’s lawyers believe forcing America’s largest company to help the government crack open one of its iPhones would violate the US constitution and be a misinterpretation of a 227-year-old law.
The 36-page legal brief is Apple’s formal rebuttal to a federal court order to write and sign software that would make it easier for investigators to open a phone used by the San Bernardino gunman.
Its attorneys argue that the government seeks “a dangerous power that Congress and the American people have withheld: the ability to force companies like Apple to undermine the basic security and privacy interests of hundreds of millions of individuals around the globe”.
Apple claims the court order violates American speech law under the first amendment, due process protections under the fifth amendment and leans too heavily on the so-called All Writs Act, a statute dating back to 1789 that gives courts broad authority to ensure orders are fulfilled.
The government has responded that Apple is placing marketing over national security and that it only seeks help in an extraordinary case – one of the largest terrorist attacks on US soil. It also states that American companies are required to comply with American law when it is technically possible.
But Apple’s legal team argues complying with the court order would set a precedent that lets investigators regularly force tech companies to remake their products for any run of the mill investigation.
“The government says: ‘Just this once’ and ‘Just this phone.’ But the government knows those statements are not true,” the filing says. “Once the floodgates open, they cannot be closed.”