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The Department of Justice and Apple's dispute over the unlocking of a phone used by a suspected terrorist appears to be getting more strained.
The government has not been happy with Apple, as the company has refused to comply with a court order to help U.S. investigators unlock an iPhone used by one of the shooters in a terrorist attack. Apple's CEO Tim Cook has been vocal about the issue, calling the order a "chilling attack" on civil liberties that sets a dangerous precedent.
Now the Justice Department is demanding that a judge immediately order that Apple comply with the government and unlock the phone. And according to prosecutors, it's all part of a brand marketing strategy.
In a motion filed Friday, the department said, "Based on Apple's recent public statement and other statements by Apple, 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 its public brand marketing strategy."
The moves are so the government can access the iPhone 5c that belonged to Syed Rizwan Farook, one of two attackers in the San Bernardino, Calif., attack that killed 14 people in December.
Mr. Cook on Wednesday published a letter on Apple's website saying the Federal Bureau of Investigation wanted a new version of Apple's operating system that would circumvent security features and give law enforcement access to private data. If the FBI were successful, the government could "demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone's microphone or camera without your knowledge."
But Justice Department prosecutors say that Apple's technical help is crucial to unlocking Mr. Farook's iPhone and whatever clues it may hold to his actions and communications both before and immediate after the shootings.
Apple's lawyers are expected to file by next Friday their formal response to this week's order from Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym of the Federal District Court for the Central District of California. They are likely to argue that the Justice Department's demands and the judge's order go beyond the government's statutory powers in gathering and searching for evidence under the All Writs Act, a law dating to 1789 used in the current case.