The U.S. Department of Justice is appealing a New York court decision to throw out a government request to compel Apple to help retrieve data from an iPhone linked to a drug case.
The Department of Justice, in a court filing obtained by NBC, is asking a federal judge to re-examine the case.
“In light of the debate that has recently come to surround this issue, it is worth briefly noting what this case is not about. Apple is not being asked to do anything it does not currently have the capability to do,” the filing reads.
“Apple may perform the passcode-bypass in its own lab, using its own technicians, just as it always has, without revealing to the government how it did so. Therefore, granting the application will not affect the technological security of any Apple iPhone nor hand the government a ‘master key’.”
Magistrate Judge James Orenstein, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, ruled last week that he did not have the legal authority to order Apple to disable the security of an iPhone linked to the criminal case dating back to June 2014.
The ruling lends considerable weight to Apple’s challenge of a more recent federal court order telling the company it must aid the FBI in breaking the encryption on the iPhone of one of the attackers who carried out the deadly Dec. 2 terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif.
“(Judge Orenstein) ruled the FBI’s request would ‘thoroughly undermine fundamental principles of the Constitution’ and we agree,” Apple said in a statement. “We share the judge’s concern that misuse of the All Writs Act would start us down a slippery slope that threatens everyone’s safety and privacy.”
The iPhone in question was recovered during a raid at the residences of a suspected drug trafficker. The Drug Enforcement Agency recovered a number of mobile devices linked to the investigation, one of which was alleged methamphetamine dealer Jun Feng’s iPhone 5s.
One problem, Orenstein stated, is the DEA waited until July 2015 to try to access data from the iPhone in question. When it could not, it turned to the FBI for assistance. The FBI, however, was also unable to bypass the iPhone’s encryption. A data retrieval request was filed with Apple and the company said it would help obtain all information possible without cracking the encryption.
The government, last October, filed a motion with the court in a bid to force the company’s hand.
The judge’s ruling can be seen below: