Apple wins a round in fight over accessing locked iPhones in criminal investigations

Apple won the latest round in its battle with the U.S. government over accessing iPhones in criminal investigations on Monday when a federal judge said he would not force the technology giant to assist in a drug probe. In a New York case that mirrors the legal wrangling unfolding over the FBI investigation into the San Bernardino mass shooting, U.S. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein denied a request from federal prosecutors that he make Apple unlock a drug dealer’s iPhone. Orenstein, in denying the New York request, rejected the same legal arguments that prosecutors made in the San Bernardino case when they sought an order compelling Apple to help FBI agents access an iPhone used by Syed Rizwan Farook, one of two assailants in the Dec. 2 terror attack. In both cases, the government had argued in large part, that the authority to force Apple’s hand rests in the All Writs Act — a centuries old law that allows judges to issue orders if other judicial avenues are unavailable. “After reviewing the facts in the record and the parties’ arguments, I conclude that none of those factors justifies imposing on Apple the obligation to assist the government’s investigation against its will,” Orenstein wrote. Find me on Twitter: @joelrubin