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Apple Accuses US Government of 'Smear' Campaign

Bruce Sewell, senior VP and general counsel for Apple, testifies on encryption during a hearing on Capitol Hill, Washington, March 1, 2016. The face-off started after Apple refused to comply with a court order to unlock an iPhone beonging to a California mass shooter.

Apple has accused the U.S. federal government of intending to 'smear' it as the fight over whether it can be forced to help law enforcement access the iPhone owned by San Bernardino gunman Rizwan Farook goes on.

"In 30 years of practice I don't think I've seen a legal brief that was more intended to smear the other side with false accusations and innuendo, and less intended to focus on the real merits of the case," said Apple's General Counsel Bruce Sewell in a phone call with reporters on Thursday.

Sewell disputed government accusations that Apple deliberately made changes to block law enforcement's requests for access, saying the claims were an "unsupported, unsubstantiated effort to vilify Apple rather than confront the issues in the case."

The government, in its filing, cited news reports and other sources suggesting that by making changes to the iPhone to support Chinese broadband requirements, such as storing data on China's state-owned Telecom equipment, Apple had cooperated with Chinese authorities possibly facilitating state surveillance.

"Of course that is not true, and the speculation is based on no substance at all," Sewell said in response. "To do this in a brief before a magistrate judge just shows the desperation that the Department of Justice now feels."

Investigators are asking a federal judge to order Apple to write new software that would help unlock the iPhone used by Farook, one of the shooters who killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California, last December.

Apple has refused the request saying the security features provide privacy to its customers by protecting them from hackers and criminals.