FBI director James Comey said during a Thursday hearing that the dispute between Apple and the FBI — regarding the unlocking of a cell phone that belonged to one of the shooters in the San Bernardino attacks last year — is the “hardest question I’ve seen in government,” the Associated Press tweeted Thursday.

Comey also said the case most likely won't be a trailblazer for any legal precedent in cases to come, Reuters reported. Comey wrote in a letter to Apple earlier this week that they should comply with the San Bernardino, California, investigation, in which the FBI called for the company to help break into the iPhone of shooter Syed Farook. Apple has refused to do so, citing wider privacy concerns.

Comey — who was made FBI director in 2013 but who has also served as Justice Department Deputy Attorney General and as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and the Eastern District of Virginia — said the case revolves around the question of "who do we want to be, and how do we want to govern ourselves,” speaking before the House Intelligence Committee Thursday. He also said there have been “plenty” of negotiations between the FBI and Apple, and that the tech giant has been cooperative throughout the dispute.

Last week, a judge in California — where Apple is headquartered — ordered Apple to help the FBI, which Apple is expected to file an objection to Friday, the AP reported. While the broader policy question about how the government can access encrypted data most likely will be resolved in the legislative branch, the case between Apple and the FBI will be instructive to other courts.

The case dates back to a December shooting in California, where Farook and his wife went to a holiday party and killed 14 people, wounding 22, Reuters reported. Comey said the case is not “about trying to send a message.”

Apple has said it is being asked to essentially hack one of its own products, and that if they did, it would set a bad precedent for the future of the relationship between technology companies and law enforcement. Apple would take the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary, the company's CEO, Tim Cook, said this week.