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Attorney General Wants Peace In Wake of Apple Fight

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U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch.Photograph by Paul Morigi — Getty Images

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch is trying to ease tensions with the technology industry.

During a keynote speech on Tuesday at the security-focused RSA Conference in San Francisco, Lynch is expected to say that the U.S. government and technology companies will continue to engage in “frank dialogue” aimed at creating a “fruitful partnership” over cybersecurity, according to the Wall Street Journal, which obtained a copy of her speech. Lynch will not, however, directly discuss the FBI’s ongoing battle with Apple (AAPL) over encryption and privacy.

The battle between Apple and the FBI will likely loom large at this week’s RSA Conference. After a magistrate judge last month ordered Apple to aid the U.S. government in obtaining access to the iPhone owned by Syed Farook, one of the San Bernardino attackers, Apple denied the request, arguing the order violates its rights. In addition, the company’s CEO Tim Cook has said on numerous occasions that providing access to the iPhone in this way would create a “dangerous precedent” that would imperil everyone’s privacy.

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The FBI, meanwhile, has rejected those claims, saying that it’s simply trying to access a single phone. FBI Director James Comey said in an open letter last month that his agency is trying to bring justice to the case and has no interest in having easy access to other phones.

The debate is expected to ramp up on Tuesday as Apple’s top lawyer Bruce Sewell, along with Comey, provides testimony before Congress on the encryption case. Regardless of what comes out of the hearing, Apple has said that it’s willing to go to the U.S. Supreme Court in defense of its argument.

Although Lynch won’t discuss Apple during her keynote speech on Tuesday, she will allude to it, according to the Journal. Her talk will include mention of “going dark,” a term coined by the FBI and the Justice Department in the last couple of years about concerns over the possibility of criminals and terrorists hiding from law enforcement by using encryption and encrypted technologies. Indeed, the case with Apple is part of a broader question over how far encryption should go.

“The going-dark problem is a very real threat to law enforcement’s mission to protect public safety and ensure that criminals are caught and held accountable,’’ Lynch plans to say, according to the Journal. ”We owe it to the victims and to the public, whose safety we must protect, to ensure we have done everything under the law to fully investigate terrorist attacks and criminal activity on American soil.’’

Apple’s Tim Cook Says the iPhone Encryption Debate Should Shift to Congress

Her comments echo those made by Comey last month when he said the FBI owes the San Bernardino victims “a thorough and professional investigation under law.”

Although the FBI and Apple are on opposing sides, they all seem to agree that cooperation between Silicon Valley and the U.S. government is critical. Comey alluded to his desire for cooperation in his comments, and Lynch will make that a core component in her remarks on Tuesday. In an email to employees last month, Cook reportedly said that he’d like to see the government end its legal attempts and instead “form a commission or other panel of experts on intelligence, technology, and civil liberties, to discuss the implications for law enforcement, national security, privacy, and personal freedom.” Cook added that Apple would “gladly participate” in such a forum.

Looking ahead, Lynch did not say when she plans to engage in the “dialogue” with Silicon Valley. It’s also unknown how willing Silicon Valley will be to engage in that dialogue after it’s taken sides against the government over the Apple case.