The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) filed a continuance yesterday to delay its court date against Apple until April 5th, 2016. The trial was originally set for today and notice comes just one day after Apple CEO Tim Cook took a public stance against the federal agency during his spring keynote launch. In the briefing, the FBI claims that due to "worldwide publicity and attention on this case, others outside the U.S. Government have continued to contact the U.S. government offering avenues of possible research. On Sunday, March 20, 2016, an outside party demonstrated to the FBI a possible method for unlocking [Syed] Farook's iPhone." The briefing continued, "If the method is viable, it should eliminate the need for the assistance from Apple Inc.

("Apple") set forth in the All Writs Act Order in this case."

Farook is the San Bernandino, California mass shooter who killed 14 people and injured 22 on December 2nd, 2015. Since his death, the FBI asked Apple to unlock the shooter's phone. However, Cook declined, citing that he would not write a program that would be a "master key" to unlock all iPhones.

Mounting criticism

At Apple's spring keynote yesterday, Cook stated, "We need to decide as a nation how much power the government should have over our data and over our privacy." Coincidentally, a source appears on the same day with the solution to the FBI's problem. Many are speculating that the FBI backed out not because they found a new method, but to save face over exposure to a potentially damaging government overreach.

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One person who has raised such concerns is former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) employee, who became infamous for releasing confidential National Security Agency (NSA) documents, Edward Snowden. He isn't buying the FBI's sudden change of heart and he sent out a plea to the reporters to investigate the motives behind the FBI's motion to delay.

FBI avoiding defeat?

Like Snowden alluded to, there are inconsistencies in the FBI claim against Apple. On March 1st, FBI Director James Comey faced the House Judiciary Committee and stated that "the fundamental right of people to engage in private communications," is "respected," before urging the need for government involvement in technological affairs. "One of the bedrock principles upon which we rely to guide us is the principle of judicial authorization: that if an independent judge finds reason to believe that certain private communications contain evidence of a crime, then the government can conduct a limited search for that evidence.

For example, by having a neutral arbiter -- the judge -- evaluate whether the government's evidence satisfies the appropriate standard," said Comey. He was touting the All Writs Act of 1789, which says courts can compel cooperation with orders not covered under existing law. He continued stating, "We are seeing more and more cases where we believe significant evidence resides on a phone, a tablet, or a laptop -- evidence that may be the difference between an offender being convicted or acquitted. If we cannot access this evidence, it will have ongoing, significant impacts on our ability to identify, stop, and prosecute these offenders." 

However, also on March 1st, New York federal judge James Orenstein disagreed and denied the government access to an iPhone in a separate drug case that also used the All Writs Act as a basis. Maybe the FBI saw the mounting criticism and just decided to bow out. The jury is still out on this one, at least until April.