Court documents produced on Tuesday display the U.S. Justice Department has in the last four months wanted court orders to force Apple Inc (AAPL.O) to assist investigators acquire information from 15 devices in cases across the country.
The disclosure comes in the middle of a heated challenge between Apple and federal investigators over accessibility to a locked iPhone belonging to one of the killers in December’s mass-shooting in San Bernardino, California.
In a document unsealed on Tuesday addressed to a federal judge in Brooklyn, New York, overseeing one such case, Apple stated it had received requests since October to support law enforcement in accessing 13 other devices.
Prosecutors explained they were knowledgeable of 15 cases filed in Massachusetts, in their own letter filed late on Monday sooner than the unsealing of Apple’s Feb. 17 list of cases.
Those cases consist of one announced last week in which a federal magistrate judge ordered Apple to unlock the iPhone belonging to one of the killers in the San Bernardino shooting, which has boomed to epic proportions into a high-publicity showdown between Apple and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.
As outlined by Apple’s letter, the technology company has objected to giving law enforcement support with regards to at least 12 of the 15 devices so far.
The letter was addressed to U.S. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein, who since October has been weighing whether to order Apple to supply authorities entry to data on a locked iPhone in a narcotics-related case.
Prosecutors earlier stated that before the Brooklyn dispute surfaced, Apple had since 2008 received 70 court orders demanding it provide similar support to which it complied without objection.
On the flip side to the San Bernardino case, many of the cases detailed by Apple and the Justice Department seem to include iPhones utilizing an older Apple operating system, which has much less security barriers to surmount.
The Justice Department on Friday filed a motion seeking to compel Apple to abide with a judge’s order to unlock an iPhone that belongs to one of the San Bernardino shooters, playing the tech giant’s refusal as a “marketing strategy.”
Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook has declined to do so, and sent a letter to employees Monday morning making crystal clear the company’s hardline position declining to make software to unlock the phone addresses broader concerns, not just a single device linked to a grisly attack.(This story modifies headline in paragraphs 1, 3 and 6 to devices, from iPhones)