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How do you figure the government has the ability to "do what they want" in this case?

I don't think it's a surprise that it has often been the case that some Elements in the gvmt are able to rationalize some objectives they have can trump the 'laws' and other rules ordinary citizens would be held accountable to. For example, The Patriot Act and other measures can be broad enough in scope to allow interpretation which would have some elements think they are invested with the power of spying on their own citizens living within the borders of their country. That's just one example. Iran Contra is also another one, and the list goes on ... The impetus for this type of rogue action will always be present in the circles of power, to allow them to keep their positions.

I don't understand. If the government could do the programming to do it, they would. That's what I'm asking: can the government really be doing "whatever it wants" in this case? They seem a bit stymied by the whole PIN wipe thing.

They can pass laws requiring software to be backdoored without allowing the company to notify the public (similar to what happened to Lavabit), or can use three letter agencies to backdoor most software anyway (similar to what happened with Dual_EC_DRBG).

Those laws won't be passed in secret.

Declare that the phone is a banana and therefore not entitled to expectation of privacy.

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