Apple Attorney Ted Olson: No Such Thing as Unlocking ‘Just One Phone’

Apple's lead attorney spoke exclusively to NBC Bay Area about its fight with the federal government over an iPhone.

"It's a very, very important principle at stake here."

Those were the first words out of Apple attorney Ted Olson's mouth as he spoke to NBC Bay Area via satellite from Washington, DC, Wednesday morning. Olson agreed to an interview to discuss the case of Apple vs the FBI.

"The principle that's involved here does not involve just one phone," Olson said. "It involves making Apple change the operating system for the iPhone, to make it into something different, something where the security of the information can be broken into."

Olson is leading Apple's case. At issue is whether or not Apple must unlock the iPhone used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Farooq. But Olson says there is no such thing as just unlocking "one" iPhone.

He says the case comes down to whether the government can force a private citizen to work for the government.

Olson describes things this way: "The FBI is saying, 'We don't like the phone, the way it's presently designed, we can't get into it. You designed it in such a way that we can't break into it. So we want you to redesign a new operating system so this iPhone and hundreds of millions of others just like it won't protect the system, won't protect the security of the people who are depending upon it."

He also says the case could very well end up in front of the Supreme Court. It wouldn't be his first time; he's a veteran of the Proposition 8 case, as well as Bush vs. Gore. He says precedent is very important with this one: "If it can be done here, it can be done in other cases."

Scott tracks phones on Twitter: @scottbudman

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