Apple hits back at US Department of Justice's "cheap shot"

Things are getting nastier and nastier in the San Bernardino case...

Apple is being deliberately "vilified" by the US government, the tech giant believes.

The Department of Justice filed a fresh response to Apple on Thursday as the battle with the FBI over iPhone encryption in the San Bernardino case rumbles on and the war of words intensifies.

The motion stated: "Apple’s rhetoric is not only false, but also corrosive of the very institutions that are best able to safeguard our liberty and our rights".

Apple was swift to react in strong terms, calling the motion a "cheap shot" fired in desperation and complaining that the government is making "an unsupported, unsubstantiated effort to vilify Apple" rather than dealing with the issues at hand.

Bruce Sewell, Apple's general counsel and senior vice president, remarked that in 30 years he had never seen a legal brief written with the express purpose of smearing the other side.

Sewell said:

"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".

He likened the DoJ statement to Apple asking a court if the FBI could be trusted, based on floating the question of whether J. Edgar Hoover ordered John F. Kennedy's assassination.

Apple and the FBI are set to attend another hearing on the case as Apple challenges an order issued by US magistrate Judge Sheri Pym in February.

Civility between the two parties has been deteriorating since then and relations look now to have utterly collapsed.

The FBI threatened yesterday that, if Apple fails to disable security features on the iPhone 5C of deceased San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook, it might demand access to Apple's source code and secret electronic signature – what it calls Apple's "crown jewels".