Bruce Sewell: ‘The Tone of the Brief Reads Like an Indictment’

Bruce Sewell, in an on-the-record conference call with reporters:

The tone of the brief reads like an indictment. We’ve all heard director Comey and Attorney General Lynch thank Apple for its consistent help in working with law enforcement. Director Comey’s own statement…that there are no demons here? We certainly wouldn’t conclude it from this brief. In 30 years of practice, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a legal brief that was more intended to smear the other side with false accusations and innuendo, and less intended to focus on the real merits of the case. For the first time ever, we see an allegation that Apple has deliberately made changes to block law enforcement requests for access. This should be deeply offensive to everyone that reads it. An unsupported, unsubstantiated effort to vilify Apple rather than confront the issues in the case. […]

Look, we know there are great people in the DoJ and the FBI. We work shoulder to shoulder with them all the time. That’s why this cheap shot brief surprises us so much. We help when we’re asked to. We’re honest about what we can and can’t do. Let’s at least treat one another with respect and get this case before the American people in a responsible way. We are going to court to exercise our legal rights. Everyone should beware, because it seems like disagreeing with the Department of Justice means you must be evil and anti-American. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I was on the call, and my impression is that Sewell and Apple are seething. I get the sense there’s an aspect of “Fool us once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” Apple was surprised last month when the DOJ decided to fight this in public. But until today, the tone has been civil. Adversarial, clearly — there is no middle ground. But civil. Today, though, the DOJ made things nasty. I think Apple was genuinely surprised by the threatening tone and nature of today’s brief. The DoJ’s brief contains an outright threat to confiscate the source code to iOS. That’s insane.

Apple’s not going to be surprised again.

The Verge is hosting a copy of the DOJ’s brief. Worth reading.

Thursday, 10 March 2016