United States Attorney General Bill Barr says he has asked Apple for help in unlocking the phones of the Pensacola, Florida naval base shooter in the terror investigation that has been ongoing since the attack in December. Barr says the tech giant has been uncooperative.
“We have asked Apple for their help in unlocking the shooter’s phones. So far Apple has not given us any substantive assistance,” Barr said at a press conference Monday. “This situation perfectly illustrates why it is critical that the public be able to get access to digital evidence once it has obtained a court order based on probable cause.” Adding that the crime was an ‘act of terrorism.’
Barr also called on other tech companies to help unlock the devices.
The shooter, Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, possessed two iPhones.
The FBI sought and received court authorization based on probable cause to search both phones in an effort to run down all leads and figure out with whom the shooter was communicating.
During the gunfight with first responders, the shooter disengaged long enough to place one of the phones on the floor and shoot a single round into the device. It also appears the other phone was damaged.
The Justice Department says these are the two iPhones carried by the Saudi military officer who opened fire at NAS Pensacola, killing 3 soldiers last month. Attorney General Barr says the gunman stopped during the attack to shoot one of the devices. pic.twitter.com/Do03yX6Oja
— Mike Balsamo (@MikeBalsamo1) January 13, 2020
FBI crime lab experts were able to fix both damaged phones so they are operational. However, both phones are engineered to make it virtually impossible to unlock them without the password.
Apple responded to the Attorney General’s accusations in a statement to INPUT, writing in part, “there is no such thing as a backdoor just for the good guys.” Essentially saying they were unwilling to unlock the iPhones.
Read the full statement below.
We were devastated to learn of the tragic terrorist attack on members of the US armed services at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida on December 6th. We have the greatest respect for law enforcement and routinely work with police across the country on their investigations. When law enforcement requests our assistance, our teams work around the clock to provide them with the information we have.
We reject the characterization that Apple has not provided substantive assistance in the Pensacola investigation. Our responses to their many requests since the attack have been timely, thorough and are ongoing.
Within hours of the FBI’s first request on December 6th, we produced a wide variety of information associated with the investigation. From December 7th through the 14th, we received six additional legal requests and in response provided information including iCloud backups, account information and transactional data for multiple accounts.
We responded to each request promptly, often within hours, sharing information with FBI offices in Jacksonville, Pensacola and New York. The queries resulted in many gigabytes of information that we turned over to investigators. In every instance, we responded with all of the information that we had.
The FBI only notified us on January 6th that they needed additional assistance — a month after the attack occurred. Only then did we learn about the existence of a second iPhone associated with the investigation and the FBI’s inability to access either iPhone. It was not until January 8th that we received a subpoena for information related to the second iPhone, which we responded to within hours. Early outreach is critical to accessing information and finding additional options.
We are continuing to work with the FBI, and our engineering teams recently had a call to provide additional technical assistance. Apple has great respect for the Bureau’s work, and we will work tirelessly to help them investigate this tragic attack on our nation.
We have always maintained there is no such thing as a backdoor just for the good guys. Backdoors can also be exploited by those who threaten our national security and the data security of our customers. Today, law enforcement has access to more data than ever before in history, so Americans do not have to choose between weakening encryption and solving investigations. We feel strongly encryption is vital to protecting our country and our users’ data.
(c) 2020 Breaking911 – T. Grant Benson / Follow Grant on Twitter: @GrantB911