What more could Apple do?
"If Apple then refuses to provide access to the phones – which is highly likely – the Feds are in the best possible position for a potential legal challenge."
"As for Apple, its formal response so far has been the following: 'We have the greatest respect for law enforcement and have always worked cooperatively to help in their investigations. When the FBI requested information from us relating to this case a month ago, we gave them all of the data in our possession and we will continue to support them with the data we have available.'"
Not quite sure what more Apple could conceivably do. They can't "provide access to the phones" without the encryption keys, which they do not and almost certainly cannot obtain: their entire system is designed to prevent anyone from doing this, no matter how intimate their knowledge of the phone's secure architecture. Which is exactly the way it should be, because everyone here* knows that security through obscurity is not security at all, and that if an individual person or organisation possesses specific privileged knowledge, that information leaks. Even NSA has leaked, copiously. Does anyone seriously believe that knowledge of Apple's "secret sauce" wouldn't soon become public? This kind of stuff always does.
Furthermore, Apple clearly states that it has given the feds "all of the data in our possession". So what, exactly, is the point of the request at all?
Based on the seemingly limitless stupidity of the politicians and security-complex bureaucrats who drive this kind of behaviour, is it possible that someone still believes that Apple has a Magic Key to unlock their phones? Like the Super Ultra Magic Key that the government will keep safe—"honest guv, you can trust us"—while using it to cripple messaging encryption?
If you use a secure encryption scheme and key known only to you, to save a message which you subsequently print and store in a safety deposit box, for how long will government idiots pursue the bank to do more to help decrypt the message? The bank can only hand over the contents of the box: the printout. It cannot provide the cryptographic key, because it doesn't have it.
Is this so difficult to understand?
* That is, a readership which largely understands the critical distinction between ignorant, wishful, often deceitful "thinking" (politicians) and fact-based, evidence-driven, truth-respecting, logical reasoning (scientists, engineers, technologists).