Within hours of the ruling, Apple CEO Tim Cook posted an open letter on the company’s website stating that Apple opposes the judge’s order.

The encryption built into iOS 8 and subsequent versions of the operating system has since been a major point of consternation between the federal government and Apple.

Speaking at the WSJ.D Live conference last October, Apple CEO Tim Cook expressed his and Apple’s ethos as the reason why it incorporates encryption even Apple can’t break.

The level of obligation Apple feels to protect customer privacy was demonstrated yesterday after Apple opposed a U.S. Federal judge’s order that said the company needed to now provide “Reasonable technical assistance” to recover data from the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone 5c. The order said Apple must help the government bypass iOS’s auto-erase function if a certain number of incorrect passcodes are entered in an attempt to unlock the device.

In the letter, Cook called the order an “Unprecedented step which threatens the security of our customers” and added that the issues are bigger than just Apple or the law enforcement agencies involved.

He goes on to drop the bombshell that the FBI is requesting Apple makes a new version of iOS for them, which would allow the agency to install it on confiscated phones and bypass the security features built into the public iOS.

With Apple’s opposal, the stage is now set for what will undoubtedly be one of the biggest and most important public debates ever over civil liberties, national security, and the role encryption technology is increasingly playing in our lives.

Should the public be willing to give up the privacy and security afforded by encryption in order to advance national security and public safety? And should the government be able to force technology companies to do so? Apple’s stance is clear.

Tim Cook