In a letter to Apple employees sent Monday, Apple CEO Tim Cook said he would be willing to participate in a dialogue but wanted the government to rescind its order that Apple unlock the iPhone.
"We feel the best way forward would be for the government to withdraw its demands under the All Writs Act and, as some in Congress have proposed, form a commission or other panel of experts on intelligence, technology and civil liberties to discuss the implications for law enforcement, national security, privacy and personal freedoms. Apple would gladly participate in such an effort," he wrote.
A hearing related to the Justice Department's request for Apple to unlock Syed Rizwan Farook's iPhone — which was owned by his employer — is scheduled for March 22.
In a statement released Sunday, FBI Director James Comey said "We don't want to break anyone's encryption or set a master key loose on the world."
A U.S. magistrate last week ordered Apple to provide the FBI with highly specialized software that could be loaded onto the work-issued iPhone 5C used by Farook. He died with his wife in a gunbattle with police after killing 14 people in December.
The software would help the FBI hack into the phone by bypassing a security time delay and feature that erases all data after 10 consecutive unsuccessful attempts to guess the passcode. This would allow the FBI to use technology to rapidly and repeatedly test numbers in what's known as a brute force attack.
The Justice Department filed a motion Friday to compel Apple to assist investigators in accessing the data.
In a statement last week, Cook said the "U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create." Once the software has been created, it would allow anyone who acquires it to potentially unlock any iPhone in his or her physical possession, he warned.
Frenkel said the Justice Department's motion lays out detailed steps to preserve and protect general public privacy.