WASHINGTON D.C. —­­ Today, Apple refused to comply with a federal judge’s order to unlock the iPhone of Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the San Bernardino attackers. In an open letter to customers, Apple CEO Tim Cook affirmed support for strong encryption and rejected government requests to weaken the company’s data security to facilitate investigations. In her order, federal judge Sheri Pym cited the All Writs Act of 1789, a law that gives courts broad authority to ensure their orders are fulfilled.

The FBI is trying to hit the ultimate reset button on privacy, turning the clock back to a time even before the Fourth Amendment’s warrant protections,” said Berin Szoka, President of TechFreedom. “Using the All Writs Act this way would allow law enforcement to bypass all privacy safeguards. If forcing Apple to hack its own devices qualifies as ‘reasonable technical assistance,’ there is no practical limit to what law enforcement could force private companies to do to compromise the security of their systems under the Act. The FBI is trying to bypass substantive privacy law using procedural subpoena powers against uninvolved third parties, tech companies that have have done no wrong. This violates not just basic Fourth Amendment values, but also a bedrock principle of American law that a court ‘cannot lawfully enjoin the world at large.’”

In October, a federal magistrate judge in Brooklyn rejected the FBI’s attempt to use the All Writs Act in another case involving iPhone device encryption.


We can be reached for comment at media@techfreedom.org. See more of our work on encryption, including:

  • “States Shouldn’t Ban Encryption,” a statement from TechFreedom
  • “White House Support for Strong Encryption Could Discourage Digital Protectionism,” a statement from TechFreedom
  • “We the People” petition asking the President to publicly affirm support for strong encryption
  • “Don’t Cripple Encryption, TechFreedom Urges Congress—and the FCC,” a statement from TechFreedom