The bureau was scheduled Tuesday to argue in federal court that the tech giant should assist in unlocking an iPhone owned by Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the alleged perpetrators in the San Bernadino shooting that killed 14 victims in December.
But the new motion suggests that the government might be able to access the information stored on the smartphone without Apple’s intervention.
“On Sunday, March 20, 2016, an outside party demonstrated to the FBI a possible method for unlocking Farook’s iPhone. Testing is required to determine whether it is a viable method that will not compromise data on Farook’s iPhone,” according to the filing by the Justice Department. “If the method is viable, it should eliminate the need for the assistance from Apple.”
The government is not revealing any details about this method or who it comes from, besides the fact that it was not developed by the FBI, National Security Agency or any other government organizations.
If the court accepts the motion, the Justice Department will provide a status report April 5 where it will acknowledge whether the newly discovered method works or if Apple’s assistance would be needed.
Apple was preparing for a hard legal battle Tuesday against the Justice Department, claiming that the government’s request to unlock the iPhone would set a dangerous precedent.
The issue even shaded the company Monday when it unveiled its new iPhone SE, with CEO Tim Cook using the attention to criticize the government demand.
“We did not expect to be in this position, at odds with our own government,” Cook told the crowd during the keynote presentation, “but we believe strongly that we have a responsibility to help you protect your data and your privacy.”