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Apple Calls on Ted Olson's Terror Connections to Fight FBI Probe

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on February 24, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Apple is in the middle of a high-profile fight with the FBI over iPhone encryption. And now Apple has a very high-profile lawyer leading their battle against the feds.

The tech company has hired superstar lawyer and former Solicitor General Ted Olson to help defend against an order to undo its phone encryption and bypass security functions on the phone of one of the San Bernardino shooters. And while Olson has a stellar legal reputation, he also has a poignant connection to terrorism that makes him well-suited to lead Apple's fight.

Ted Olson's Relevant Connections

You may remember Ted Olson from his stint representing George W. Bush in Bush v. Gore, or his work overturning Proposition 8, or his insane $1,800 an hour billing rate. But Olson has a few relevant connections, beyond just his sterling legal reputation, that make him a good pick for Apple. He's a Silicon Valley native, having grown up in Mountain View, California, just a stone's throw from Apple's Cupertino headquarters. (At 75, Olson slightly predates Apple, however.)

But he also has a personal connection to terrorism. Olson's third wife was one of the victims of the September 11, 2001, attacks. Barbara Olson was a passenger on American Airlines Flight 77, which was hijacked and flown into the Pentagon.

That makes Olson a particularly fitting person to argue against government intrusions into privacy, even if that argument is made to protect the phone of Syed Farook, who, along with his wife, killed 14 people and wounded 22 others when he opened fire on his coworkers in December, 2015.

While Olson's back story won't have much sway in the courtroom, it could prove persuasive in the court of public opinion. And Apple and the FBI have already made this a very public battle, with Apple opposing a FBI court order directly on its website and the FBI decrying Apple's recalcitrance as a simple marketing move.

That's Some Expensive Counsel

As a side note, it's worth mentioning that Ted Olson makes even Apple products look affordable. One of the most successful litigators in the country, at least when it comes to the Supreme Court, Olson billed $1,800 an hour as of 2012 -- and his price has certainly gone up since then.

That makes him one of the most expensive lawyers in the country, at a cost of about three iPhones an hour.

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