The Justice Department is seeking court orders that would force Apple to help it bypass the security features on at least twelve other iPhones not connected to terrorism cases, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Specifically, investigators want the company to develop a new operating system that would allow them to test out thousands of passwords without triggering an iOS feature that disables the phone after 10 incorrect attempts.
“They are not asking Apple to redesign its product or to create a new backdoor to one of their products,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest explained last week. “They’re simply asking for something that would have an impact on this one device.”
But according to the Journal, it’s not just one device—prosecutors are reportedly pursuing court orders in at least twelve other cases under the All Writs Act, an 18th century law that, on its face, allows Congress to “issue all writs necessary or appropriate in aid of their respective jurisdictions and agreeable to the usages and principles of law.”
It’s unclear what evidence authorities are seeking from the twelve pending cases, but the Journal reports “they don’t involve terrorism charges.” At least one case, in New York, concerns a federal drug investigation.
Papers filed in that case reportedly indicate the government has successfully obtained court orders in similar investigations.
“In most of the cases, rather than challenge the orders in court, Apple simply deferred complying with them, without seeking appropriate judicial relief,” a letter filed with the court alleges.
In a statement issued Wednesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook described the court order as a slippery slope that would ultimately result in the government having power “to reach into anyone’s device to capture their data.”
“The government could extend this breach of privacy and demand that Apple build surveillance software to intercept your messages, access your health records or financial data, track your location, or even access your phone’s microphone or camera without your knowledge,” Cook wrote.