U.S. Justice Department Demands Apple Unlock A Dozen Other iPhones Citing 220-Year-Old Law

Apple is currently fighting a court order to provide the FBI with technical assistance in thwarting the security and encryption schemes of an iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters. The company's fear is that building a so-called backdoor into the iPhone would compromise the security of all iOS devices, though the FBI contends this would be a one-off thing. Turns out it wouldn't be.

Citing "people familiar with the matter," The Wall Street Journal says the U.S. Justice Department is in the process of obtaining court orders that would force Apple to pluck data from about a dozen different iPhone devices around the country. Just as with the San Bernardino iPhone, the Justice Department is using a law that's over two centuries old called the All Writs Act to get its way.

Apple iPhone 6

This is one of the things Apple was worried about, that a legal precedent combined with a master key of sorts would compromise the security and privacy of all iPhone owners. It's also interesting that we're learning about this a day after the director of the FBI, James Comey, wrote an op-ed piece downplaying Apple's fears.

"The particular legal issue is actually quite narrow. The relief we seek is limited and its value increasingly obsolete because the technology continues to evolve," said Comey. "We simply want the chance, with a search warranty, 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. We don't want to break anyone's encryption or set a master key loose on the land."

Comey's appeal to the public is an emotional one as he says the victims in the San Bernardino case are owed a "thorough and professional investigation under law." Apple isn't likely to dispute that, and in fact Tim Cook said he and his company have helped the FBI in every way they can.

What's also interesting about all this is that the dozen other iPhones the Justice Department is seeking court orders for aren't involved terrorist activities, but various crimes.