The judge overseeing a U.S. government attempt to force Apple Inc to unlock an encrypted iPhone belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters made it clear she expected a full briefing on the technological details involved in prosecutors’ request.
During a telephone conference with attorneys in the case last week, U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym said Apple should have enough time to present “what technically is involved here,” along with its legal arguments.
Reuters obtained an audio recording of the conference, which lasted just under 30 minutes, from the court on Wednesday. The judge and the attorneys focused on procedural details and timing.
The FBI is seeking the tech company’s help to access shooter Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone by disabling some of its passcode protections. Apple has pushed back, arguing that such a move would set a dangerous precedent and threaten customer security.
The Justice Department won an order from Pym last week against Apple. The company was not present in court, but Pym gave Apple time to contest the order.
During the phone conference, which was held two days after Pym issued the order, prosecutors informed the judge and Apple attorneys that the government intended to file an additional motion to compel, in which it would ask the judge to again order Apple’s compliance.
Pym questioned the necessity of the government’s filing.
“I am a little confused about the motion to compel, just because the order in place is actually an order compelling,” Pym said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracy Wilkison said it was necessary because Apple’s chief executive, Tim Cook, said he would fight the order. Apple attorney Theodore Boutrous called the government’s request “highly unusual” and “inappropriate,” and asked Pym to forbid it.
The judge said she would not prohibit the filing. Prosecutors submitted the motion to compel on Friday, which generated a raft of media reports.
Both a Justice Department and an Apple spokesman declined to comment.
Apple is scheduled to file its first legal arguments on Friday. Pym has set a hearing on the issue for next month.