Apple Inc. and the FBI: Balancing Fourth Amendment Privacy Concerns against Societal Safety Concerns in the Digital Age

Author: Maxel Moreland, Associate Member, University of Cincinnati Law Review

On December 2, 2015, two shooters opened fire and killed fourteen members of the San Bernardino, California community.[1] Within hours, the police had shot and killed the couple who carried out the horrendous mass shooting.[2] Once the threat had been eliminated, law enforcement and the general public needed information explaining how and why this tragedy occurred. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), current evidence suggests that the shooters had a potential link to Islamic extremism.[3] While the FBI has uncovered troves of information about the San Bernardino attack, the FBI claimed that it needed more information.[4]

The FBI wanted to compel Apple to create software that will break-in to the iPhone and circumvent security features.[5] To do this, the FBI wanted the judicial system to issue a writ that requires Apple to create this software.[6] Judicial authority should not be used in this matter, if the government wants technology companies to provide technological assistance to the government, Congress should pass a law.  No court should issue an order that requires a company to circumvent its own security features as the customer’s right to privacy should outweigh the perceived increase to safety. Continue reading “Apple Inc. and the FBI: Balancing Fourth Amendment Privacy Concerns against Societal Safety Concerns in the Digital Age”

Free Speech in the Age of Terrorism & Mehanna v. United States: SCOTUS Passes Up an Opportunity to Clean Up an Old Mess

Author: Rebecca Dussich, Associate Member, University of Cincinnati Law Review 

In the order following the Supreme Court’s September conference, the Court declined to hear a case that would have clarified §§ 2339A and B of Title 18 of the U.S. Code and prevented unlawful encroachment on free speech rights. Tarek Mehanna, convicted of providing “material support” to a foreign terrorist organization, asked the Court to clarify its interpretation of the statute under which he was prosecuted.[1] The standard used to support this conviction, established in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project, requires action “in coordination with, or at the direction of” the terrorist organization in question.[2] Because HLP did not adequately explain this standard, the government has been able to convict defendants like Mehanna despite insufficient evidence to support the “coordination” requirement. Now, the Court has passed up an opportunity to correct this error by denying Mehanna’s petition for writ of certiorari, leaving his conviction in place, and effectively supporting an improper and ineffective standard. If the Supreme Court were to give courts and juries a more workable set of guidelines under which to establish “coordination,” they could more fairly decide these cases.

Continue reading “Free Speech in the Age of Terrorism & Mehanna v. United States: SCOTUS Passes Up an Opportunity to Clean Up an Old Mess”