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Dateline USA. Timeline:

In December, a mass shooting at a workplace holiday party claims the lives of fourteen people, with a further twenty-two injured. The attack’s execution does not fit established patterns of either terrorism or lone wolf style shootings, causing rampant and widespread speculation.

On Sunday, a supreme court justice dies. The opposing political party immeditely promises to hold up the nomination and confirmation of the next justice until the sitting president’s term runs out in another year. There is no word on what will happen if the opposition’s candidate, who has still not even been decided, is not elected the next president.

On Tuesday, with all other options exhausted, a judge orders one of the largest and wealthiest manufacturers of consumer electronics in the world to create a method of defeating its own encryption system for one of its most popular products in order to access the contents of one of the mass shooter’s smartphones, citing a legal act dating from 1789. The proposed solution to get at the shooter’s data, a version of the particular smartphone’s operating system that will not erase the phone’s data after a certain number of incorrect unlock attempts, has disastrous implications for the phone’s hundreds of millions of other users worldwide. If created, the modified version of the phone’s operating system would make all similar devices vulnerable to the most popular and effective hacking method currently in use, known as the brute force attack. Such a vulnerability would also prove disastrous for the company’s bottom line.

The consumer electronics company’s CEO appeals to the public and prepares to fight the judge’s order. This challenge stands a chance of going all the way to the supreme court, shorthanded for the foreseeable future.

This might even get better.