U.S. Government Calls Apple Rhetoric ‘False’ in iPhone Case

(Reuters) – The U.S. Justice Department on Thursday said Apple‘s rhetoric was “false” in a high-profile fight over the government’s bid to unlock an encrypted iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters.

The dispute between Apple and the government burst into the open last month when the Federal Bureau of Investigation obtained a court order requiring Apple to write new software and take other measures to disable passcode protection and allow access to shooter Rizwan Farook’s iPhone.

Apple (AAPL) has said the government’s request would create a “back door” to phones that could be abused by criminals and governments, and that Congress hasn’t given the Justice Department legal authority to make such a demand.

In the court filing on Thursday, federal prosecutors said Apple‘s stance was “corrosive” of institutions best able to safeguard “our liberty and our rights.” The government also said Apple“deliberately raised technological barriers” to prevent the execution of a warrant.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Justice Department’s new filing.

Earlier this week, the government also sought to overturn a ruling which protects Apple from unlocking an iPhone in a New York drug case, which raises similar legal issues as the California litigation.

The FBI says Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, were inspired by Islamist militants when they shot and killed 14 people on Dec. 2 at a holiday party. The couple later died in a shootout with police and the FBI said it wants to read the data on Farook’s work phone to investigate any links with militant groups.

Tech industry leaders including Google (GOOG), Facebook (FB) and Microsoft (MSFT) and more than two dozen other companies filed legal briefs last week supporting Apple. The Justice Department received support from law enforcement groups and six relatives of San Bernardino victims.

A hearing in the case is scheduled for March 22 in a Riverside, Calif. federal court. Apple CEO Tim Cook has said he is willing to take the case to the Supreme Court.

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