San Bernardino shooting victims' families will file brief backing government over Apple

At the apparent urging of the Justice Department, the families of the victims of the San Bernardino terrorist attack will file a brief supporting the government in its case against Apple. 

The government wants Apple to decrypt the iPhone of one of the terrorists, but Apple is refusing based on its notions of privacy.

Reuters:

Stephen Larson, a former federal judge who is now in private practice, told Reuters that the victims he represents have an interest in the information which goes beyond the Justice Department's criminal investigation.

"They were targeted by terrorists, and they need to know why, how this could happen," Larson said.

Larson said he was contacted a week ago by the Justice Department and local prosecutors about representing the victims, prior to the dispute becoming public. He said he will file an amicus brief in court by early March.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on the matter on Sunday.

Larson declined to say how many victims he represents. Fourteen people died and 22 others were wounded in the shooting attack by a married couple who were inspired by Islamic State militants and died in a gun battle with police.

Entry into the fray by victims gives the federal government a powerful ally in its fight against Apple, which has cast itself as trying to protect public privacy from overreach by the federal government.

An Apple spokesman declined to comment. In a letter to customers last week, Tim Cook, the company's chief executive, said: "We mourn the loss of life and want justice for all those whose lives were affected," saying that the company has "worked hard to support the government’s efforts to solve this horrible crime."

Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey said in a letter released on Sunday night that the agency's request wasn't about setting legal precedent, but rather seeking justice for the victims and investigating other possible threats.

"Fourteen people were slaughtered and many more had their lives and bodies ruined. We owe them a thorough and professional investigation under law. That's what this is," Comey wrote.

The FBI is seeking the tech company's help to access shooter Syed Rizwan Farook's phone by disabling some of its passcode protections. The company so far has pushed back, arguing that such a move would set a dangerous precedent and threaten customer security.

Apple has gone too far out on a limb to back down now, which is unfortunate.  To some of us, it's incomprehensible why Apple would make a stand for privacy in this specific instance.  To my mind, the issue is cut and dried – especially since the company has apparently cooperated with government in 70 other cases.  If they can open a phone for cops looking into a drug crime, why not a terrorism case?

The brief that will be filed on behalf of families makes Apple's P.R. efforts far more complicated.  In fact, there may come a point to where standing on the privacy principle will cost them far more in customer goodwill and loyalty than giving in and helping the government in its investigation.

At the apparent urging of the Justice Department, the families of the victims of the San Bernardino terrorist attack will file a brief supporting the government in its case against Apple. 

The government wants Apple to decrypt the iPhone of one of the terrorists, but Apple is refusing based on its notions of privacy.

Reuters:

Stephen Larson, a former federal judge who is now in private practice, told Reuters that the victims he represents have an interest in the information which goes beyond the Justice Department's criminal investigation.

"They were targeted by terrorists, and they need to know why, how this could happen," Larson said.

Larson said he was contacted a week ago by the Justice Department and local prosecutors about representing the victims, prior to the dispute becoming public. He said he will file an amicus brief in court by early March.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on the matter on Sunday.

Larson declined to say how many victims he represents. Fourteen people died and 22 others were wounded in the shooting attack by a married couple who were inspired by Islamic State militants and died in a gun battle with police.

Entry into the fray by victims gives the federal government a powerful ally in its fight against Apple, which has cast itself as trying to protect public privacy from overreach by the federal government.

An Apple spokesman declined to comment. In a letter to customers last week, Tim Cook, the company's chief executive, said: "We mourn the loss of life and want justice for all those whose lives were affected," saying that the company has "worked hard to support the government’s efforts to solve this horrible crime."

Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey said in a letter released on Sunday night that the agency's request wasn't about setting legal precedent, but rather seeking justice for the victims and investigating other possible threats.

"Fourteen people were slaughtered and many more had their lives and bodies ruined. We owe them a thorough and professional investigation under law. That's what this is," Comey wrote.

The FBI is seeking the tech company's help to access shooter Syed Rizwan Farook's phone by disabling some of its passcode protections. The company so far has pushed back, arguing that such a move would set a dangerous precedent and threaten customer security.

Apple has gone too far out on a limb to back down now, which is unfortunate.  To some of us, it's incomprehensible why Apple would make a stand for privacy in this specific instance.  To my mind, the issue is cut and dried – especially since the company has apparently cooperated with government in 70 other cases.  If they can open a phone for cops looking into a drug crime, why not a terrorism case?

The brief that will be filed on behalf of families makes Apple's P.R. efforts far more complicated.  In fact, there may come a point to where standing on the privacy principle will cost them far more in customer goodwill and loyalty than giving in and helping the government in its investigation.