By now you’ve probably heard about the massive legal battle between the National Security Agency (NSA) and Apple, which the US government alleges illegally used the company’s iPhone for mass surveillance.
But a new leak from the NSA appears to show that the agency has actually been using at least two lawsuits as evidence of the spy agency’s malfeasance.
The new lawsuit, filed in 2014, claims that Apple violated the US Constitution by failing to properly protect the rights of Americans and foreign citizens to use the iPhone.
The leak comes from an NSA document, and is the first publicly known example of the agency’s alleged illegal use of a case law lawsuit to try to hold Apple accountable for violating Americans’ privacy rights.
The document claims that “the National Security Agencies [NSA] has conducted a wide-scale illegal surveillance campaign in the United States and abroad.
Specifically, NSA surveillance has targeted US citizens and residents, including Americans, overseas, and in the US”.
While the document makes no mention of Apple, the fact that the NSA has been using the lawsuit as a tool to hold the company accountable suggests that it’s a case that could be used as a weapon in future court cases.
A spokesperson for the NSA told The Verge that “we have been working with the DOJ and the Department of Justice to provide a detailed response to the government’s request to dismiss the lawsuit.”
However, the spokesperson did not address whether the agency would appeal the ruling, which it will likely need to do before any potential future court case.
The US government has been pushing Apple for years to produce backdoors in the iPhone, and the company has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
However, US intelligence agencies have argued that the FBI has already used the case law to justify a warrantless wiretap of a phone belonging to a San Francisco-based journalist who had just been accused of leaking details about a CIA assassination plot.
According to the Guardian, the leaked documents also show that Apple had been working on backdoors to the iPhone for at least a decade before the US Government even asked it to produce them.
As Ars Technica reported last year, the leak also suggests that the US Intelligence Community had been secretly developing a backdoor for years, but that the government would eventually relent after the public pressure forced Apple to turn over the information.