The government says it may have found a way into the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone — and they’re willing to take a huge step back in their fight with Apple to see it through.
On Monday afternoon, Magistrate Sheri Pym passed a government motion to abandon Tuesday’s planned hearing, effectively freezing the month-long legal battle between Apple and the Department of Justice. But Pym also took a huge legal step in her judgment, putting a stay on the original court order that attempted to use the All Writs Act to force Apple to program a backdoor into its security features on an iPhone connected to the San Bernardino shootings.
Pym laid out her ruling in a conference call with lawyers from both sides. Buzzfeed News got a copy of the transcript — Tuesday’s hearing was off, and the legal order that has been hanging over Apple’s head for more than a month was also put on hold.
From the start, Apple had resisted the court order, so now that it’s formally lifted (for now), the case could change entirely. It could fizzle out, if the government’s “outside party” is successful in breaking into the phone, or it could flare up again later. But for now, it appears the government has decided they have a better chance at using an alternative method to get into the phone, rather than using the All Writs Act to force Apple to comply — which wasn’t going to be easy. The AWA was the government’s chief legal justification for making Apple comply with their court order, but one that Apple had hotly contested all along. While the stay could be lifted after the government’s April 5th briefing, for the time being, Apple isn’t legally obligated to do anything.