It’s a showdown that has the country mesmerized. In court battles brewing across the nation, the FBI is trying to force Apple to help it extract data from iPhones seized in more than a dozen cases.
The government is so intent on forcing Apple’s hand that in each case the Justice Department has invoked the 200-year-old law All Writs Act to do it. But application of the Act requires the government to show that it has no other method of extracting data from the phones. And according to experts who spoke with WIRED, that’s not necessarily the case. They say there are ways the government can extract data on phones without Apple’s help, from using outside contractors to asking its friends at the NSA—ways that it has, in fact, already used in the past. The solutions won’t work for every iPhone the government has collected, and the solution offered for extracting data from the phone in San Bernardino involves some speculation about the NSA’s capabilities. But they do raise questions about whether the government has done everything it can do to collect the data it says it needs.