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DOJ Delays Apple Hearing at the Last Minute; Claims Possible Third-Party Method for Unlocking iPhone


Editor in Chief
Jul 27, 2011
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Just like the plot of some intriguing spy-thriller, the FBI vs. Apple court case that was to be heard this morning, was delayed by a last minute request from the Department of Justice. The DOJ postponed the hearing last night, in which they would have gone up against Apple to get the court to force the Cupertino company to unlock the San Bernardino shooter's iPhone.

According to reports, the reason why the Feds pulled back at the last minute was because they claim to have found a third party "possible method" that will allow them to unlock the device without Apple's help. Lawyers for the DOJ wrote the following,

"On Sunday, March 20, 2016, an outside party demonstrated to the FBI a possible method for unlocking [terrorist Syed] Farook's iPhone. Testing is required to determine whether it is a viable method that will not compromise data on Farook's iPhone. If the method is viable, it should eliminate the need for the assistance from Apple Inc. ("Apple") set forth in the All Writs Act Order in this case."

"Accordingly, to provide time for testing the method, the government hereby requests that the hearing set for March 22, 2016 be vacated."

The government requested that the hearing be postponed for two weeks and convene on April 5th. The DOJ claims they need the extra time to see if the method they have will work on Farook's iPhone 5c without compromising the data.

Sheri Pym, the judge presiding over the case, agreed to vacate the hearing scheduled for today, and required the DOJ to update the court by April 5th. Pym also suspended the motion requiring Apple to help the FBI unlock the iPhone, until that time.

Apparently, Apple isn't willing to give up the fight completely, since they feel they are protecting consumer rights. Apple told reporters that they would insist the FBI share the details on the exploit, if the FBI plans to keep moving forward with the case; however, if the FBI drops the case, Apple will have no legal recourse to request that information.

Several editorial comments across the web are suggesting this last minute delay seems fishy. One theory is that the FBI had this method all along and was simply using this case to grab power by setting a legal precedent. The other theory is that they didn't really find a method to unlock the iPhone, but are simply backing off because they can see the legal winds blowing against them.

Basically, it seems like Apple pushing harder is simply the company "calling the FBI's bluff." What do you folks think?
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I think that the DOJ has realized that they don't stand much of a chance at winning this dispute with Apple and don't want a ruling that could prevent them from making this same demand at some point in the future. I think it's likely that this third party method of unlocking the iPhone in question, if it exists, was known to the DOJ from the beginning.
Perhaps Apple should demand the identity of the third party, and then seek an injunction against their use of the method?
They could only do that if the rescheduled hearing date actually happens. If the DOJ decides to drop the whole action against Apple, there's nothing Apple could do.

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