As the papers, folders, experts, laypeople, presidential candidates and lawyers line up to play their role in what could be the start of a legal saga that will determine how government treads upon encryption, it seems that the party who may hold the most emotional sway in this case have chosen a side.
Stephen Larson, a federal judge turned private lawyer, is now representing some of the victims of the San Bernardino shootings and has said to Reuters that they will file legal briefs on the side of the government.
The government has ordered Apple to create a version of its iOS mobile platform that will allow investigators unlimited attempts at entry into Syed Farook’s iPhone 5c without triggering a data wipe. Farook, along with his wife, killed 14 people and wounded 22 others at the Inland Regional Center in December.
“They were targeted by terrorists, and they need to know why, how this could happen,” Larson said.
Larson is not charging for his work.
This comes as the FBI told Re/code today that the changing of the Apple ID account password associated with Farook’s iPhone was deliberate. The device, which was owned by the San Bernardino County Department of Health and then assigned to Farook, was obtained by the FBI on December 3, the day after the shooting. The county reset the password of the iCloud account in order to obtain any data backups stored within it. The last backup, however, was made on October 19, six weeks — and, supposedly, just enough planning time — before the shootings occurred.
The Justice Department and Apple do agree that the reset prevented investigators from viewing any possible backups made after that date. However, the former has stated that it was uncertain whether crucial evidence could be obtained from those possible backups.
“[T]he government’s objective, and still is, to extract as much evidence as possible from the phone,” reads an FBI statement.
While the topic of national security and police procedures are very much a fixture of the national conversation right now, the underlying principles will have a go at each other starting next month. That’s when a magistrate court judge has decided to set a hearing on the matter.