FBI Director Comey Admits Apple Case Could Set Precedent

FBI Director James Comey acknowledged during a House hearing on Thursday that a court order forcing Apple to create software that bypasses security measures in iOS could establish a precedent. This, despite claims from the get-go that the court order was about one device and once device only.

FBI Director James Comey

FBI Director James Comey

The FBI asked a federal court to compel Apple to create a new version of iOS that could be sideloaded onto an iPhone used by Sayed Farook, one of two terrorists who murdered 14 people in an attack in San Bernardino, CA, in December of 2015. The court agreed, but Apple has vowed to fight the order, arguing that creating such a backdoor would set a precedent and put hundreds of millions of iPhone owners in jeopardy of having their data and information compromised.

Under questioning from U.S. lawmakers, Mr. Comey said, according to The Guardian, that the outcome of this fight "will be instructive for other courts," and, "guide how other courts handle similar requests."

For those keeping score at home, that's a precedent, and it contrasts with an open letter Mr. Comey wrote earlier in February, where he said:

The San Bernardino litigation isn't about trying to set a precedent or send any kind of message.


The particular legal issue is actually quite narrow. The relief we seek is limited and its value increasingly obsolete because the technology continues to evolve.

Mr. Comey's comments underscore Tim Cook's comments in his own open letter and in an ABC interview where he argued that the only way to keep iOS safe from malicious actors around the world is to not create tools that the FBI wants.