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The FBI has asked Magistrate Sheri Pym to postpone a court hearing originally scheduled for Tuesday, March 22, on the her order that Apple assist the FBI in disabling the “10-wrong-tries-and-phone-is-erased” feature of the San Bernadino terrorist’s iPhone in FBI possession. Magistrate Pym has granted that request.

The spin on this motion has already begun. Apple partisans, though not Apple itself, are claiming that this motion on the part of the FBI demonstrates that it knows the weakness of its legal case, and is therefore retreating before it loses the case on the record. For its part, the FBI says that “Our top priority has always been gaining access into the phone used by the terrorist in San Bernardino. . . . The FBI has continued in its efforts to gain access to the phone without Apple’s assistance . . . . an outside party demonstrated to the FBI this past weekend a possible method for unlocking the phone. We must first test this method to ensure that it doesn’t destroy the data on the phone, but we remain cautiously optimistic. That is why we asked the court to give us some time to explore this option.”

Both versions are equally plausible to me, and they may even both be true. But regardless of the underlying reason(s), I regard the outcome at this point in time as manna from heaven. What’s been absolutely clear in recent weeks is that both sides have become increasingly vituperative and tempers have gone hot. And it’s *always* true that real solutions are more likely when cooler heads prevail.

So I am hoping that the time bought by this postponement will let passions subside on both sides. That will be the first step towards a solution – or failing that, perhaps better understanding on each side’s part.

Dr. Herb Lin is senior research scholar for cyber policy and security at the Center for International Security and Cooperation and Hank J. Holland Fellow in Cyber Policy and Security at the Hoover Institution, both at Stanford University. His research interests relate broadly to policy-related dimensions of cybersecurity and cyberspace, and he is particularly interested in and knowledgeable about the use of offensive operations in cyberspace, especially as instruments of national policy. In addition to his positions at Stanford University, he is Chief Scientist, Emeritus for the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, National Research Council (NRC) of the National Academies, where he served from 1990 through 2014 as study director of major projects on public policy and information technology, and Adjunct Senior Research Scholar and Senior Fellow in Cybersecurity (not in residence) at the Saltzman Institute for War and Peace Studies in the School for International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. Prior to his NRC service, he was a professional staff member and staff scientist for the House Armed Services Committee (1986-1990), where his portfolio included defense policy and arms control issues. He received his doctorate in physics from MIT.

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