Justice Department Escalates Government’s PR Battle With Apple Over San Bernardino Attacker’s iPhone

The U.S. Department of Justice responded to Apple’s refusal to aid in unlocking the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino terrorists in a new court motion Friday.

During the motion, federal prosecutors  accused Apple of valuing technology and its marketing strategies “rather than the law” in its persistent refusal to assist federal agents in their investigation, according to the Associated Press. The motion also extended a sharply worded response to Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive officer, and his message that was relayed to the company’s customers earlier this week.

“Rather than assist the effort to fully investigate a deadly terrorist attack by obeying this court’s [previous order], Apple has responded by publicly repudiating that order,” the motion stated, according to ABC News. “Apple’s current refusal to comply with the Court’s Order, despite the technical feasibility of doing so, instead appears to be based on its concern for its business model and public brand marketing strategy.”

Apple CEO Tim Cook applauds during an Apple special event at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts on September 9, 2014 in Cupertino, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Apple CEO Tim Cook applauds during an Apple special event at the Flint Center for the Performing Arts Sept. 9, 2014, in Cupertino, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The public controversy began when the Department of Justice asked Apple to provide the government with the tools necessary to extract data from the locked iPhone 5c that belonged to Syed Rizwan Farook who, along with his wife, Tashfeen Malik, killed 14 people Dec. 2 in San Bernardino, the New York Times reported. Now, the department is asking a federal judge to enforce the court’s order asking Apple to provide the tools necessary to complete the investigation. The department’s response to Apple and Cook highlights the heightening public relations battle that has received heated national public criticism and passionate defense.

“The government requires Apple’s assistance to access the … device to determine, among other things, who Farook and Malik may have communicated with to plan and carry out the IRC shootings, where Farook and Malik may have traveled to and from before and after the incident, and other pertinent information that would provide more information about their and others’ involvement in the deadly shooting,” the federal prosecutors had stated in their initial filing on Tuesday, ABC News reported.

“The United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers,” Cook had retorted in a statement to Apple’s customers, ABC News reported. “[T]his order … has implications far beyond the legal case at hand. … In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.”

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