This article was originally published by Eric Lichtblau and Katie Benner on The New York Times on February 17, 2016.
WASHINGTON — Last month, some of President Obama’s top intelligence advisers met in Silicon Valley with Apple’s chief, Timothy D. Cook, and othertechnology leaders in what seemed to be a public rapprochement in their long-running dispute over the encryption safeguards built into their devices.
But behind the scenes, relations were tense, as lawyers for the Obama administration and Apple held closely guarded discussions for over two months about one particularly urgent case: The F.B.I. wanted Apple to help “unlock” an iPhone used by one of the two attackers who killed 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif., in December, but Apple was resisting.
When the talks collapsed, a federal magistrate judge, at the Justice Department’s request, ordered Apple to bypass security functions on the phone. The order set off a furious public battle on Wednesday between the Obama administration and one of the world’s most valuable companies in a dispute with far-reaching legal implications.
“This Apple case really goes right to the heart of the encryption issue,” said Ira Rubinstein, a senior fellow at the New York University Information Law Institute, “and in some ways, this was a fight that was inevitable.”
This is not the first time a technology company has been ordered to effectively decrypt its own product. But industry experts say it is the most significant because of Apple’s global profile, the invasive steps it says are being demanded and the brutality of the San Bernardino attacks.
The U.S. Constitution guarantees citizens’ individual rights to freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. Over the nation’s history, an enormous body of law has arisen interpreting when searches and seizures are deemed reasonable under the circumstances.
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