Tami Abdollah

WASHINGTON: Apple Inc. will tell a federal judge this week in legal papers that its fight with the FBI over accessing a locked and encrypted iPhone should be kicked to Congress, rather than decided by courts, the Associated Press has learned.

Apple will also argue that the Obama administration’s request to help it hack into an iPhone in a terrorism case is improper under an 18th century law, the 1789 All Writs Act, which has been used to compel companies to provide assistance to law enforcement in investigations.

A lead attorney for Apple, Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., previewed for the AP some of the company’s upcoming arguments in the case. Apple’s chief executive, Tim Cook, has also hinted at the company’s courtroom strategy.

Apple’s effort would move the contentious policy debate between digital privacy rights and national security interests to Congress, where Apple — one of the world’s most respected technology companies — wields considerably more influence. Apple spent nearly $5 million lobbying Congress last year, mostly on tax and copyright issues. Key lawmakers have been openly divided about whether the government’s demands in the case go too far.

Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym in California ordered Apple last week to create specialized software to help the FBI hack into a locked, county-issued iPhone used by a gunman in the mass shootings last December in San Bernardino, Calif. Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, killed 14 people at an office holiday party in an attack at least partly inspired by the Islamic State group.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates supports investigators’ efforts to force Apple to help them, saying a balance needs to be struck between government access and the need to preserve data security. While clarifying he doesn’t support untrammeled government access to personal data, Gates’ position runs contrary to the heads of Facebook, Twitter and Google, who have all sided with Apple.