WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/AP) — FBI Director James Comey said the issues raised in the Justice Department’s dispute with Apple Inc. represent the “hardest question I’ve seen in government.”

Comey was appearing Thursday before the House Intelligence Committee, a week after a California judge ordered Apple to help the FBI hack into a locked iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino gunmen.

He said the central question is “who do we want to be, and how do we want to govern ourselves.”

Comey said Apple had been “very cooperative” in the dispute and that there have been “plenty” of negotiations between the two sides.

“Law enforcement, which I’m part of, really does save people’s lives,” Comey said. “Rescue kids, rescue neighborhoods from terrorists…and we do that a whole lot through court orders that are search warrants and we do it a whole lot though search warrants of mobile devices.”

Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook has said the magistrate’s order would essentially create a backdoor to the encrypted iPhone, which is Apple argues is unlawful and a dangerous precedent.

“We have no tolerance or sympathy for terrorists,” he said in an email to employees and an online post. “At stake is the data security of hundreds of millions of law-abiding people.”

Apple is expected to file an objection by Friday.

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