Just yesterday we covered Tim Cook's ABC interview in which he eloquently explained Apple's stance on refusing the FBI court order to hack into the San Bernardino shooter's iPhone. Today Apple made it official by filing a motion to vacate the court order.
Apple is petitioning the court to basically rescind the previous court's order to hack the iPhone on grounds that the FBI is "seeking dangerous power." To clarify things even further, Apple is arguing that the FBI is abusing the intent of the All Writs Act in order to pressure Apple into doing something that the US Government has no Constitutional authority to require.
The All Writs Act was signed by President George Washington in 1789. It was designed to give federal judges the power to compel people to do things within the limits of the law, as long as it does not cause undue hardship. Apple's viewpoint holds that the way the All Writs Act is being used in this case does not fall within the limits of the law.
Apple's motion is brilliantly written and attacks the misuse of the All Writs Act from multiple angles. Apple's argument starts out strong with statements like,
"The All Writs Act, first enacted in 1789 and on which the government bases its entire case, 'does not give the district court a roving commission' to conscript and commandeer Apple in this manner. In fact, no court has ever authorized what the government now seeks, no law supports such unlimited and sweeping use of the judicial process, and the Constitution forbids it."
The motion also points out that the court order violates Apple's First and Fifth Amendment rights, as it is the equivalent of compelled speech. Apple further explains that the code which the government is compelling them to create is "too dangerous to build," because it could fall into the hands of foreign agents or criminals,
"In short, the government wants to compel Apple to create a crippled and insecure product. Once the process is created, it provides an avenue for criminals and foreign agents to access millions of iPhones. And once developed for our government, it is only a matter of time before foreign governments demand the same tool."
The document further elaborates Apple's position that this is a legal slippery slope, and calls out the FBI's underhanded behavior in using the emotional nature of this case to bypass legal procedures,
"The government says: 'Just this once' and 'Just this phone.' But the government knows those statements are not true; indeed the government has filed multiple other applications for similar orders, some of which are pending in other courts. And as news of this Court’s order broke last week, state and local officials publicly declared their intent to use the proposed operating system to open hundreds of other seized devices—in cases having nothing to do with terrorism. If this order is permitted to stand, it will only be a matter of days before some other prosecutor, in some other important case, before some other judge, seeks a similar order using this case as precedent. Once the floodgates open, they cannot be closed, and the device security that Apple has worked so tirelessly to achieve will be unwound without so much as a congressional vote."
There's definitely a great deal more to the full document, and we encourage you to take the time to read it to see Apple's excellent argument. Regardless of how you look at in this issue, it's undoubtedly a very complex problem. It is unlikely to be settled quickly before it gets even messier.
Source: Apple's Filed Motion