Apple 'Formally Objects' to Judge's Order Telling Company to Help Hack iPhone

PHOTO: A woman uses an iPhone 6 in this file photograph dated Jan. 27, 2016. PlayMichaela Rehle/Reuters
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Hours after Apple on Tuesday pleaded with lawmakers to help resolve the tech giant's growing showdown with the U.S. government, Apple formally objected to a federal judge's order telling the company to help FBI agents hack into an iPhone left behind by one of the San Bernardino, California, shooters.

In a one-sentence filing in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, attorneys representing Apple notified the judge that their client "formally objects" to her order two weeks ago.

The notification -- which said it was being filed "in an abundance of caution" -- comes three weeks before federal prosecutors and Apple attorneys argue their case in-person before U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym.

Apple has repeatedly voiced its objections to Pym's order in media interviews and public statements, most recently before a House panel on Tuesday, when Apple General Counsel Bruce Sewell accused the FBI of asking Apple to create a "backdoor" into the iPhone -- a move he said is "too dangerous" because it "would weaken the security for all" iPhones.

Top FBI officials have dismissed the notion that Apple’s assistance in the San Bernardino case would endanger other phones around the world.

"The code the judge has directed Apple to write works only on this one phone, and so the idea of it getting out in the wild and it working on my phone or your phone ... is not a real thing," FBI Director James Comey told the House Intelligence Committee last week. "[In addition] the code will be at Apple, which I think has done a pretty darn good job of protecting its code."

On Dec. 2, 2015, Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, launched a deadly assault on a county government holiday party, killing 14 of Farook's coworkers in San Bernardino. With attacks like that, the public needs to understand "the costs associated with moving to a world of universal, strong encryption," Comey said.

"I love encryption," Comey insisted, but law enforcement "really does save people’s lives, rescue kids [and] rescue neighborhoods from terrorists ... and we do it a whole lot through search warrants of mobile devices."

Federal prosecutors say Farook’s work phone, given to him by San Bernardino County, could be hiding "crucial evidence" about the terror attacks, including any communications with other radicals.

During his testimony Tuesday, Sewell told members of the House Judiciary Committee that "you and your colleagues as representatives of the people" -- rather than a court proceeding -- should resolve the issues at stake.

Earlier this week, a federal judge presiding over a separate, drug-related case in Brooklyn, New York, said federal authorities have no legal authority to force Apple to break into an iPhone.

Many observers believe at least one of the cases could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.