By Cory Bennett - 02/17/16 11:28 AM EST
Government leaker Edward Snowden on Wednesday rushed to defend Apple after the company refused to comply with a court order directing the firm to help the FBI unlock an iPhone used by one of the perpetrators of last year's San Bernardino, Calif., terrorist attack.
The FBI hasn't been able to access the smartphone because it is password-protected and encrypted to prevent access by anyone other than the owner.
Unable to crack the phone itself, the bureau turned to the courts.
On Tuesday, a California court ordered Apple to provide the FBI with “reasonable technical assistance” to get at the data on the phone. Specifically, the order tells Apple to disable a feature that erases all of the data on the phone after too many failed password attempts.
Within hours, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company would not comply with the order, calling the request an “unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers.”
Apple complying would have “implications far beyond the legal case at hand,” Cook added in the public letter posted to Apple’s website.
Snowden linked to the letter in his tweet.
The former government employee was responsible in 2013 for releasing a trove of secret documents that exposed numerous clandestine government spying programs.
Snowden, who now lives in Russia, later tweeted, “The technical changes the @FBI demands would make it possible to break into an iPhone (5C or older) in a half hour.”