Feds Get San Bernardino Victims’ Backing in Fight With Apple

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San Bernardino shooters Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik.

After a judge ruled that Apple must help the FBI unlock San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook’s iPhone, the company said it would fight the order, framing its resistance as a stand for privacy rights. Now the federal government is retaliating with its own claim of moral superiority. Former Federal Judge Stephen Larson tells Reuters that he intends to file a legal brief supporting the government on behalf of several victims of the shooting. “They were targeted by terrorists, and they need to know why, how this could happen,” Larson said.

Larson said the Justice Department and local prosecutors contacted him about representing the victims, but did not say how many will be part of the amicus brief. Fourteen people were killed and 22 were wounded in the December 2 attack.

In case the government’s strategy still wasn’t clear, on Sunday night, FBI Director James Comey posted a statement on the Lawfare blog countering Apple’s suggestion that creating a version of its software that could unlock Farook’s phone “would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks.

We simply want the chance, with a search warrant, to try to guess the terrorist’s passcode without the phone essentially self-destructing and without it taking a decade to guess correctly. That’s it,” Comey said. “We don’t want to break anyone’s encryption or set a master key loose on the land.” He added, “we can’t look the survivors in the eye, or ourselves in the mirror, if we don’t follow this lead.”

Comey concluded that it should be up to the “American people” to work out the balance between privacy and security going forward — not the government or “corporations that sell stuff for a living.” Your move, Apple.