Eshoo Statement on Apple Court Order

February 26th, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.), Ranking Member of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee, released the following statement:

“The San Bernardino tragedy has produced a major issue brought forward by the FBI and the response of Apple to the government’s demand. The FBI wants access to what may or may not be stored on the locked iPhone used by one of the shooters in the San Bernardino attack and Apple has denied this request.

“The request sounds simple and reasonable, but the implications of this case extend beyond any one company or device.

“The FBI has gone to Court to force a private company to create a system solely for the purpose of the federal government to use whenever and however it wishes. This came about after the government missed a key opportunity to back-up and potentially recover information from the device by resetting the iCloud password in the days following the shooting.

“There are several critical issues that need to be examined. First, this is a stunning overreach of the FBI to demand that a private company create a new operating system with a ‘swinging door’ that the federal government can enter and exit without any rules whatsoever, whenever they wish. The access being sought by the government is a national security issue with global implications. If forced to comply with the Court’s order, Apple would not just be unlocking one phone. It would in essence be ordered to also unlock a world where our personal information is vulnerable to attacks by terrorist organizations, rogue nations and others seeking to cause the U.S. harm and instill fear.

“Second, Congress has determined that ‘backdoors’ endanger our country because they weaken security. Terrorists and those who wish to do our country harm can advantage themselves and this weakens our national security.

“Third, as a veteran of the House Intelligence Committee, I’ve seen first-hand the heavy damage that occurs when big government exceeds the limits set by law. The trust of the American people has been severely diminished by many indefensible undertakings, including Cisco routers being intercepted and bugged by our government before being shipped; the allegations that German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone and those of other world leaders were being tapped; and the CIA spying on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence as it was investigating controversial detention and interrogation programs. What Congress would not legislate, the FBI is now seeking to accomplish through the Courts.

“Fourth, efforts to circumvent code that protects sensitive information on one device creates a dangerous precedent for future seizure of information and a pathway for unauthorized access of that information by hackers, foreign governments and terrorists. Yes, law enforcement is important to us, but mass access to surveillance by the federal government is not the answer. Our Constitution calls on us to protect and defend against enemies both foreign and domestic. It also provides for the protection of the citizenry from the abuses of its own government.

“In Arizona v. Hicks (1987), the late Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the majority: ‘…But there is nothing new in the realization that the Constitution sometimes insulates the criminality of a few in order to protect the privacy of us all.’

“The American people and its law enforcement agencies deserve laws that reflect an understanding of 21st century realities about encryption instead of relying on the All Writs Act of 1789. We can and must do better than this.”

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