Feds demand Apple’s help in unlocking Brooklyn drug dealer’s iPhone

Apple vs. the FBI: a timeline

The FBI was able to access the iPhone used by the San Bernardino terrorist — but the law enforcement still needs help cracking other iPhones in its possession.

On Friday, the Department of Justice said it will keep demanding Apple’s help in unlocking a Brooklyn drug dealer’s iPhone — a continuation in an epic legal battle.

The current fight is being waged in a New York City case involving the iPhone 5C of a methamphetamine dealer, Jun Feng. He got arrested and cut a deal with prosecutors, and the Drug Enforcement Administration got a search warrant to look through Feng’s phone for clues about fellow drug dealers and customers.

The DEA wants Apple’s help. Apple has pushed back. A federal magistrate judge sided with Apple in a lengthy decision that questioned the government’s authority to force Apple to help. The case has jumped up a level and is now with U.S. District Judge Margo K. Brodie.

In a legal filing Friday, federal prosecutor Robert Capers said the DEA can’t unlock a drug dealer’s iPhone using the same method the FBI did to hack into the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone.

If that hacking method worked on all iPhones, federal law enforcement wouldn’t need Apple’s help. But the DOJ made clear that’s not the case.

The drug dealer had an iPhone 5C running iOS 7 software, while the San Bernardino shooter was using an iPhone 5C running iOS 9, a later version of Apple’s operating system.

“The government continues to require Apple’s assistance in accessing the data that it is authorized to search by warrant,” wrote Capers.

In court documents so far, Apple has indicated it intends to fight law enforcement’s attempts to force the company to act.

Apple (AAPL, Tech30) did not immediately return calls for comment.

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