FBI fires back at Apple: 'We don't want to break anyone's encryption'

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DOJ, Apple in War of Words Over San Bernardino Attacker's iPhone

The war of words between Apple Inc. and the government continued Sunday as FBI Director James Comey said forcing Apple to help unlock the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters is no big deal.

"We don't want to break anyone's encryption or set a master key loose on the land," Comey said in a statement Sunday night, insisting that vital decisions involving safety from terrorists shouldn't be left in the hands of "corporations that sell stuff for a living."

Read reaction to the battle between Apple and the FBI on social media:

23 PHOTOS
FBI battles with Apple over San Bernardino shooters' iPhone, social reax
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FBI fires back at Apple: 'We don't want to break anyone's encryption'
This is the most important tech case in a decade. Silence means @google picked a side, but it's not the public's. https://t.co/mi5irJcr25
I stand with Apple on privacy and FBI demand. It's not just marketing for @tim_cook and wasn't for Jobs. https://t.co/cZ1DOEs2RA
4/5 But that’s wholly different than requiring companies to enable hacking of customer devices & data. Could be a troubling precedent
Apple has no problem trying to gather every bit of our personal data for marketing but obligated to protect privacy of dead mass murderers?
Any communications/tech CEO that isn't standing with Apple against the FBI is basically admitting that they've already been compromised.
Journalists: Crucial details in the @FBI v. #Apple case are being obscured by officials. Skepticism here is fair: https://t.co/lEVEvOxcNm
.@FBI “We want to get inside the iPhone no matter what.” @tim_cook “Not a chance.” FBI: “What if we made an album?” Tim: “I’m listening…”
Refusing access to #FBI shows terrorists they can get around FBI. Let's be clear: Apple is doing a service for our adversaries! #AppleVsFBI
"A man who is willing to trade security for liberty deserves neither." - Benjamin Franklin #AppleVsFBI #currentevents
The @FBI is creating a world where citizens rely on #Apple to defend their rights, rather than the other way around. https://t.co/vdjB6CuB7k
#AppleVsFBI is so much bigger than people realize. Keeping a close eye on this one
Speech can only be free when it is protected. —@mcuban #AppleVsFBI https://t.co/m41wKR31ET https://t.co/ng71CmYjeS
#Apple #AppleVsFBI Thanks @tim_cook for taking a stand https://t.co/tgWprQESyK https://t.co/qmFhovqIOl
I prefer dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery. Way to go #Apple. Born free staying free. #AppleVsFBI
Steve Jobs would've literally laughed in the FBI's face about them wanting Apple to create a backdoor to hack into a phone. #AppleVsFBI
Every candidate needs a mandatory 1 day crash course on encryption before poisoning public understanding of issue #GOPTownHall #AppleVsFBI
Keeping us safe by chipping away at our ability to preserve our right to privacy is the first step toward not being safe. @FBI #AppleVsFBI
So the company that put an entire U2 album onto my iPhone without asking is now all about privacy? #AppleVsFBI
There are no exceptions, we should never go down the slope of sacrificing privacy for the sake of security. #AppleVsFBI
Apple is right -- no matter how justified it may seem, turning over that data would set a terrible precedence. #ApplevsFBI
Thank you Tim Cook for making public a conflict that every citizen of the U.S. should be paying attention to. #AppleVsFBI
We should be less worried about apple and more worried about how the FBI can't get passed a locked iPhone #AppleVsFBI
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A federal judge last week ordered Apple to help investigators gain access to encrypted data on the iPhone 5c used by Syed Rizwan Farook, who with his wife, Tashfeen Malik, killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California, on Dec. 2.

Not even Apple can decrypt the encrypted iPhone, according to the company. What investigators want it to do is help them figure out Farook's password so they can simply unlock the phone — but they fear that it has a common feature that wipes the data completely after a certain number of failed password entries.

Apple Vs. The FBI: A Closer Look

Apple said it wouldn't comply, arguing that helping the government unlock an encrypted phone would sabotage the entire point of encryption and endanger the privacy of millions of its customers.

Since then, the company and federal authorities have lobbed strongly worded statements at each other. Here's how the battle has played out:

WEDNESDAY: Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook says the order would force the company "to build a backdoor to the iPhone" and that "no reasonable person would find that acceptable."

THURSDAY: Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai weighs in on Apple's side, tweeting that helping the FBI try to get into the Farook's phone would sabotage the security of "tens of millions of American citizens."

FRIDAY: Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump adds his 2 cents' worth, calling for a boycott of Apple unless it helps the FBI.

FRIDAY: Prosecutors file a motion seeking to force Apple's compliance, writing in court documents that Apple shouldn't be allowed to "design and market its products to allow technology, rather than the law, to control access to data" found by a court to be important to an critical investigation.

SATURDAY: The FBI lays out in a statement more detail on why it needs Apple's help. It says that investigators were able to gain access to data Farook backed up to his iCloud account -- but that Farook stopped backing up his phone in October, well before the December shootings. "Since the iCloud backup does not contain everything on an iPhone," they said, investigators' "objective was, and still is, to extract as much evidence as possible from the phone."

READ MORE: Why Are Apple and the FBI Battling Over an iPhone?

SUNDAY: Comey tries to downplay the dispute, arguing in his new statement that no precedent would be set if Apple would just go along.

"I hope folks will take a deep breath and stop saying the world is ending, but instead use that breath to talk to each other," he said.

"Although this case is about the innocents attacked in San Bernardino, it does highlight that we have awesome new technology that creates a serious tension between two values we all treasure — privacy and safety," he said, adding:

"We simply want the chance, with a search warrant, to try to guess the terrorist's passcode without the phone essentially self-destructing and without it taking a decade to guess correctly."

More from NBC News:

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