US Attorney General demands Apple unlock Pensacola shooter’s iPhones

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slide to unlock lock screen
Apple is embroiled in another unlocking controversy.
Photo: Leander Kahney/Cult of Mac

Apple could be headed for another collision course with U.S. federal law enforcement, similar to the spat it had with the FBI over creating backdoors into iOS.

Attorney General William Barr has asked Apple to provide access to two phones used by the gunman at the Pensacola Naval Air Station shooting last month. Barr said this morning that Apple has provided no “substantive assistance” so far and indicated that he’s ready for a fight regarding the issue.

Law enforcement officials have been critical of Apple’s stance on privacy and encryption dating back to 2015 when the FBI got a court order demanding Apple unlock a dead terrorist’s iPhone. Apple CEO Tim Cook refused to comply on the grounds that creating a backdoor into iOS would make hundreds of millions of devices vulnerable to attackers.

The battle against the FBI was finally resolved when a third-party helped the FBI hack the iPhone in question. Apple has refused to hack the Pensacola shooter’s iPhones so far. The company did provide materials from the iCloud account of the gunman, Second Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani. Alshamarani killed three sailors and wounded eight others during the attack on December 6.

“This situation perfectly illustrates why it is critical that the public be able to get access to digital evidence,” said Mr. Barr, according to the New York Times.

The Justice Department wants to unlock the iPhones to gain access to messages in Signal or WhatsApp to see if the shooter acted alone or if it was part of a coordinated attack. Alshamrani was supposedly trying to destroy his phones during the shooting, making them a high priority to investigators.