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Moot point: Judge closes iPhone encryption case in Brooklyn

After the FBI gets the passcode to a drug dealer's iPhone, a judge nixes the US government's bid to force Apple to help unlock the device.

Case closed.

A federal judge on Monday ended legal proceedings in which the US government sought to force Apple to help the FBI open an encrypted iPhone. Late Friday, the government abruptly said it no longer needed Apple's help in a case involving the iPhone 5S of a Brooklyn drug dealer. It got the phone's passcode through other means.

If it feels like deja vu, that's because this is the second recent case to end this way. The US Department of Justice had also asked a federal court to order Apple to come up with a technical workaround to its own encryption on another phone -- one that had been used by San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook. In that case, the government dropped its efforts once it found a method for breaking into the iPhone 5C without requiring Apple's cooperation after all.

The FBI referred a request for comment to the Justice Department, which did not respond to a request for comment.

The judge's order Monday was a terse legalistic phrase. "In view of the government's submission ... the government's application is denied as moot."

Several other cases in which the US government wants Apple or Google to help unlock an encrypted device remain open and await a judgment.