This Map Shows How the Apple-FBI Fight Was About Much More Than One Phone

All Writs Act Orders for Assistance From Tech Companies

Update: 4/1/2016:  The ACLU of Massachusetts has filed a motion seeking to unseal the docket for the suspected All Writs Act case in that state, arguing that the public should have access to case information to inform the debate on whether law enforcement can conscript technology companies to undermine device security.

The government insisted that its effort to force Apple to help break into an iPhone as part of the investigation into the 2015 San Bernardino shootings was just about that one case. Even though the FBI no longer needs Apple’s help in that case, the FBI’s request was part of a sustained government effort to exercise novel law enforcement power.

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At the heart of the legal battle is the All Writs Act, originally passed in 1789, which gives courts the authority to issue orders necessary to enforce other lawful orders or decisions. We’ve found that the government has been using the law to force tech companies to help unlock their customers’ devices in dozens of cases since 2008. We’ve gathered all of those cases together on an interactive map we published today.

After the Justice Department revealed in a case in Brooklyn that it had already secured approximately 70 such orders, the ACLU and the ACLU of Massachusetts went digging for them. We uncovered 63 confirmed cases in which the government applied for an order under the All Writs Act to compel Apple or Google to provide assistance in accessing data stored on a mobile device. To the extent we know about the underlying facts, these cases predominantly arise out of investigations into drug crimes.

The map identifies where and when these cases have arisen, their docket numbers, and which federal agency conducted the investigation. Public court documents associated with the cases can be found here. The ACLU expects to learn about additional All Writs Act cases in response to our FOIA requests — filed jointly with the Stanford Center for Internet and Society — and we will update this map as more information becomes available.

There are even more cases out there. In addition to the 63 confirmed cases, we know of up to 13 additional cases, which are reflected on the map. Apple has identified 12 pending cases (though their docket numbers remain unknown), and we uncovered one case in Massachusetts, which has not yet been confirmed because of a lack of publicly available information.

The FBI wants you to think that it will use the All Writs Act only in extraordinary cases to force tech companies to assist in the unlocking of phones. Turns out, these kinds of orders have actually become quite ordinary.

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You are seriously confused. No one is arguing against warrants, we are arguing FOR THEM. None of the lame comparisons to bank accounts (where the banks is OBLIGED to provide access at any time) compare. These are floated by self-interested billionaires who's technology is being SIDELINED by Apple. (Bill Gates, the same guy who made all manner of ridiculous predictions about 'the road ahead' and about 640k being 'all the memory anyone would ever need'. Our phones have 100x more memory than that now.

Most of those arguing for the government here are either incredibly foolish and probably failed most of their HS courses, or are techno-fanboys of legacy systems like Windows, or competing (ripped off) platforms like Android.


Get your facts straight: the Bill of Rights was created on September 25, 1789 and ratified on December 15, 1791, while the first version of the All Writs Act was signed into law on September 24, 1789 as part of the Judiciary Act of 1789.

"No one has a right to privacy which allows them to commit crimes or evade the legal system."

I have a first amendment right to speak in any language I wish, including those that law enforcement does not and never will understand. The fact that evidence of a crime may be encoded in such a language (i.e. ciphertext) is irrelevant. The justice system does not get to use prior restraint or software development bondage to eliminate the possibility of strong encryption getting in the way of their apparent insatiable lust for data. They can pound sand, literally and figuratively.


If the government were trustworthy there'd be no cause for concern.


Best comment!


DO NOT....DO NOT....DO NOT...Believe that the All Writs act is applicable to current drug cases. A little discourse on HOW and WHY the US government arrived here. First, the Trade Towers fell/were demolished/ disassembled (Bush Jr's lamentably accurate words for the rationalization for the Patriot Act). Suddenly is became evident that the New World Order of Bush's daddy wanted a very short leash on jurisprudence. A Total Information Awareness system was proposed, which drew immediate congressional backblast, and a law was passed prohibiting the spying of the type described by DARPA. So TIA was extinguished, but, wait, um, nooooo. Of course not. Seems that Bush Jr took his daddy's words at face value, and tripled the size of the bunker under the White House. And gave over Executive, Legislative, and Judicial functions over to DEA agents and mouse cursors. As an opiod user, since 1996 and before, my home has been entered and ransacked looking for evidence of drug use other than as prescribed. During the time, I was using Percocets, but the NSAIDS ripped my guts out, causing bleeding. So I switched to Oxycontin. At the time the drumbeat of DEA's anti drug efforts used Percocet by brand name to conflate their efforts against we users with illegality, smearing us with the taint of known abusers. As a result, the Prescription Monitoring Database was launched, eviscerating our right to be left alone by our inclusion in a local cop searchable database, convenient at it's inclusion in when our drugs are delivered to us. Very nice, coppers. Since that day, my meds have been stolen three times. One old man in my VA community had his stolen last month. Nice going coppers. Fast forward, and as I switched to Oxycontin, simultaneously, DEA Language switched to the "Scourge" of Oxycontin. Systematically, the puppet masters continued to target me, changing to the new mds I was now taking. Now the drumbeat is over Oxycodone, which is my presents med routine. Mind you, I have been taking these for Degenerative disc since 1982. Three decades. Now I painted you this picture to inform you that the Patriot Act was used almost exclusively for DEA drug cases. Now that the Patriot Act is over, the argument centers on public health issues, referring to the overwhelming new scourge of opiod deraths. Fols, more die from alcohol poising, drunk driving crashes, liver failure, and brain rot due to drunkenness than all the drug related cases. Period. Do the math. But the feds NEED the ability to illegally enter our home, because how else they gonna steal enough stuff to get by on their salaries. And thousands of dollars in rare currency, gold coins (I collect, buy, trade and sell coins) have been stolen from me. All with the new and abusive languages they are inventing to mask their crimes. Now, folks, there ain't NO device safe to speak on, and therefore, when it is time (and the time will come) to silence all dissent to implement the final phase of the New World Order, all they will need is to drop the cursor on the control panel under the white House and hit execute. And you though executions for other than terrorists were prohibited. Fools.


It's not about the legitimacy of the orders, it's about using the key they cut for your house in the good ol' USofA to open my house here in Oz. Well I, like most of the world, don't fall under US constitution or law and I don't want your government having my keys - for any reason.


Can you point to a document where the government alleges the use of the All Writs Act is to be used "only in extraordinary situations"? It's a tool in the tool box - a very old catch-all that obviously still has relevance (as most catch-alls do). Why exactly does this show government dishonesty?

William Hamilton

Are these "Anonymous" posts real or are they just FBI propaganda? If you don't have the balls to post your real name, then I have no respect for you or your opinion.


Compelling assistance is the problem here. If the FBI has a warrant they can break into the phone legally, no one has a problem with that. But they can't force Google or Apple to make the their job easy. That would be like forcing safe makers to make weak safes. A warrant lets law enforcement open a safe, or phone, or search a home. No one can tell you to use weak locks on your door to make the police's job easier, or tell the lock companies to make a weak lock. The FBI just isn't developing the necessary expertise to break into encrypted computer systems and wants a key so they don't have to. Which is lazy and short-sighted, because computer systems with that kind of access aren't secure.


anonymous one and two, i givee a shit. they are obtaining warrants using a doctrine that was developed prior to the existence of mass consumer data the only time it was updated was when landlines became widely used-they need to update this legal language to describe reasonable in a digital context. They are using an overly broad ancient law to bully MANUFACTURERS OF ELECTRONICS to solve drug crimes...that's overreaching! the san bernadino villians weren't drug dealers so they shouldn't be treated the same-shouldn't be caught the same. The problem with not asserting your rights is that they end up assuming those rights are being waived. i don't consent to unlawful searches and seizures, they are trying to undermine the security and safety of millions of people that is UNREASONABLE AS FUCK. especially since the one thing that prevents all that data from falling into the wrong hands is ENCRYPTION. that's great you know that the shooter is in fact linked to terrorist organizations but oh no now all the people in witness protection have had their new identities compromised oh well. all the women and children hiding from abusive spouses all the adoptees that don't want to be contacted by their birth parents, all the rape victims just trying to move on, all the disabled citizens who shouldn't have to belong to a database somewhere identifying them as such for no other reason than some boundless premptive measure in the name of "national security" everyone who you didn't want to know that you defaulted on your house could know everyone that forgot you voted for bush would remember all those exes you told that you moved to canada would find you. imagine never ever having a moment alone in your home without someone annotating every single instance-with no particular focus or action more important than the other, sleeping farting sighing itching jacking off all of it. even if you could stomach the idea, would you prefer it? and even still what the hell did our military service men and women die for trying to protect our freedom? we could've stayed under British rule if privacy wasn't a big deal. how'd the nsa do with that kind of intelligence? the fact that we even know about it tells us they did an awful job. they spied on their lovers intimidated their neighbors and kept tabs on their exes. what do you thinks going to happen if the syrian army gets a hold of your forum chatter? your billing information? you should be very very concerned right now, because they wanted this to make it so they never had to get a court order ever again, without encryption everyone's everything would leak everywhere not just to those authorized to access it.


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