Apple Says It Received Nine Similar iPhone Search Requests

  • Letter by Apple unsealed in Brooklyn spells out other demands
  • Company is opposing prosecutors' bids to unlock iPhones

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Prosecutors across the U.S. have asked Apple Inc. to unlock iPhones at least nine times since Oct. 8, as a battle pitting security versus civil liberties plays out in a California terrorism case.

In the nine requests, prosecutors in New York, Chicago and California have demanded that Apple unlock 12 phones, the company said in a letter to a Brooklyn judge who is overseeing a similar case involving a drug dealer’s smartphone. The letter was unsealed Tuesday.

Apple has been fighting a Justice Department request to unlock a phone used by a terrorist in San Bernardino, California. Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has called the government’s request a “chilling” attack on civil liberties.

The order in the San Bernardino case “directs Apple to perform even more burdensome and involved engineering” than sought in Brooklyn, the company said in a Feb. 17 letter. Apple says it has opposed seven of the nine requests and is awaiting more details on two U.S. demands.