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Comey: 'Of course' FBI would leverage precedent in San Bernardino case

Image Credit: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

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Under questioning from members of the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, FBI Director James Comey admitted that his agency would "of course" seek to use the precedent gained from a win in the San Bernardino to unlock other phones.

"If the All Writs Act is available to us, and relief under the All Writs Act fits the powers of the statute, of course" the bureau would seek to apply the same tactic in other cases, Comey said in response to a question from Rep. John Conyers. Comey repeatedly acknowledged the potential of the San Bernardino matter to set a legal precedent.

Much of the committee's time was spent questioning Comey on the precedential nature of the bureau's request, but members were also keen to determine whether the FBI had done everything in its own power before turning to the courts.

Reps. Darrell Issa and Zoe Lofgren — members of the California congressional delegation — were especially tough on Comey. Issa, who made a fortune in automotive security, pressed the FBI chief on detailed technical matters that Comey was continually unable to answer.

"How can you come before this committee..if you can't answer the questions?" Issa asked pointedly.

Apple general counsel Bruce Sewell is slated to testify before the committee later today.