A law enforcement official says the encryption has delayed the terrorists’ investigation; Apple has rejected it. Although FBI technicians have access to data from two iPhones belonging to Saudi citizens, who killed three U.S. sailors at a military base in Pensacola, Florida, in 2019, the Justice Department continues to criticize Apple for refusing to apply back door procedures.
The Justice Department had previously criticized Apple on the matter. Still, Apple and consumer rights advocates have repeatedly claimed that the provision of back door procedures is irresponsible, citing widespread privacy concerns.
On Monday, United States Attorney General William Barr and FBI Director Chris Wray announced that after unlocking the two iPhones owned by Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, investigators were able to obtain the gunman base of the organization.
Barr and Wray also described how unlocking iPhone data led to an investigation by a colleague in Alshamrani, Yemen.
Although FBI technicians were able to hack two iPhones and retrieve data from Alshamrani, even after he attempted to destroy both devices after the shooting, Barr, and Wray criticized Apple for saying they lacked cooperation with terrorist investigation agencies.
On Monday, after comments from the FBI director and attorney general, Apple countered that the company has cooperated with investigators; but cannot build back doors on its law enforcement team.
On December 6, 2019, Lt. Alshamrani of the Royal Saudi Air-Force was trained at the Pensacola Naval-Air Base, killing three people and injuring eight others. The police later shot him.
After the attack, the FBI recovered two iPhones belonging to Alshamrani.
According to the New York Times, one is an iPhone 7 with a fingerprint reader; the other is an iPhone 5 with a fingerprint. Federal prosecutors and FBI agents said it was difficult to extract information from the iPhone due to encryption; prompting Barr to pressure Apple to unlock the smartphone.
President Donald Trump also tweeted that Apple should do more to assist the FBI in its investigation.
We are helping Apple all of the time on TRADE and so many other issues, and yet they refuse to unlock phones used by killers, drug dealers and other violent criminal elements. They will have to step up to the plate and help our great Country, NOW! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 14, 2020
Last year, Barr repeatedly expressed concern about application encryption. For example, in July 2019, the Minister of Justice said that what he described as “irresponsible encryption” by Facebook-owned Whatsapp; endangers public safety, and said that providing access to the back door through law enforcement will bring minimum security risk data.
Early legal confrontation
The Justice Department and the FBI faced a similar legal confrontation in December 2015, when Apple refused to comply with the requirement to create a back door on the shooter’s iPhone 5C; which killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California.