Apple Inc., resisting a court order requiring the company to help unlock the iPhone of a dead terrorist, asked the government to withdraw its demands and said Congress should form a committee to discuss the implications for privacy and personal freedoms.

Apple would “gladly participate” in such an effort, the company said in a statement on its website Monday.

“We feel the best way forward would be for the government to withdraw its demands under the All Writs Act and, as some in Congress have proposed, form a commission or other panel of experts on intelligence, technology, and civil liberties to discuss the implications for law enforcement, national security, privacy, and personal freedoms,” the company said.

Last week U.S. Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym ordered Apple to lend “reasonable technical assistance” to the FBI in recovering information from the phone used by Syed Rizwan Farook, who teamed up with his wife in December to kill 14 people in San Bernardino, California.

Apple has so far rejected the court order, saying that it would open a “Pandora’s Box” of privacy issues. The standoff has ignited a long-simmering battle between the tech industry and the government, pitting concerns over civil liberties against the need for surveillance to fight terrorism.


The case centers around whether the government can require Apple to write new software to compromise a key security feature of the company’s iOS mobile operating system. The government argues this is a one-time request that will aid an important terrorist investigation.

In a letter posted on the company’s website Monday, Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said the directive would create a dangerous precedent that could ultimately require the company to build software to help governments intercept private e-mails and access private health records.

On Sunday FBI Director James Comey said the litigation over the phone “isn’t about trying to set a precedent or send any kind of message.”

“We don’t want to break anyone’s encryption or set a master key loose on the land,” Comey said in a letter on the agency’s website. “I hope folks will take a deep breath and stop saying the world is ending.”


Apple faces a Feb. 26 deadline to file its rebuttal to the government’s argument in court, with a hearing scheduled for March 22. Apple and FBI officials have been asked to testify in at least two congressional hearings. Meanwhile, the issue has become fodder among U.S. presidential candidates, with Republican front-runner He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named calling for a ban on Apple products. The case could eventually reach the U.S. Supreme Court.

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