Encryption

Spinning the FBI Motion to Postpone the Court Confrontation with Apple

By Herb Lin
Monday, March 21, 2016, 11:04 PM

The FBI has asked Magistrate Sheri Pym to postpone a court hearing originally scheduled for Tuesday, March 22, on the her order that Apple assist the FBI in disabling the “10-wrong-tries-and-phone-is-erased” feature of the San Bernadino terrorist’s iPhone in FBI possession. Magistrate Pym has granted that request.

The spin on this motion has already begun. Apple partisans, though not Apple itself, are claiming that this motion on the part of the FBI demonstrates that it knows the weakness of its legal case, and is therefore retreating before it loses the case on the record. For its part, the FBI says that “Our top priority has always been gaining access into the phone used by the terrorist in San Bernardino. . . . The FBI has continued in its efforts to gain access to the phone without Apple’s assistance . . . . an outside party demonstrated to the FBI this past weekend a possible method for unlocking the phone. We must first test this method to ensure that it doesn’t destroy the data on the phone, but we remain cautiously optimistic. That is why we asked the court to give us some time to explore this option.”

Both versions are equally plausible to me, and they may even both be true. But regardless of the underlying reason(s), I regard the outcome at this point in time as manna from heaven. What’s been absolutely clear in recent weeks is that both sides have become increasingly vituperative and tempers have gone hot. And it’s *always* true that real solutions are more likely when cooler heads prevail.

So I am hoping that the time bought by this postponement will let passions subside on both sides. That will be the first step towards a solution – or failing that, perhaps better understanding on each side’s part.