Government Backtracks in Dispute Against Apple Over Unlocking Terrorist iPhone

The government has asked to postpone its scheduled hearing against Apple tomorrow, according to breaking news reports by Fox News and the Associated Press as well as The New York Times.

It is reported that “an outside party” has identified to the FBI a possible method to unlock the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino terrorists.  The government has asked for time to determine if the proposed method is successful.

The Department of Justice filing is posted here.

Today’s developments would suggest that the Department of Justice and FBI may be coming to the same conclusions that the Silicon Valley Software Law Blog reached last week: that the best course of action in this matter would be for the government to accept third party help to decrypt the locked terrorist iPhone and to drop the legal action against Apple.  While the Department of Justice has succeeded in creating a huge public relations victory for Apple by taking its encryption dispute to the courts, it has done little to advance its own interests, creating instead a very public controversy over the issue of federal government overreaching and setting itself up for a expensive court battle over free speech that could be headed to the Supreme Court.  Perhaps the realities of the situation have set in and the government is taking the prudent course of action after all.   While legal scholars may be disappointed in this development, finding an alternative solution to end this dispute is going to be best for law enforcement and ultimately best for the American people as well.

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