Top U.S. law-enforcement officials accused Apple Inc. of stalling the probe into the killing of three people at a Florida Navy base by refusing to help unlock the shooter’s phones, the Wall Street Journal reports. The gunman, Second Lt. Mohammed Alshamrani, a member of the Saudi air force, had communicated with operatives of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula for years, before he began training with the U.S. military, officials said. The discovery was made based on information recovered from his two locked iPhones. “We received effectively no help from Apple” to access the phones, said FBI director Christopher Wray. The struggle to unlock the encrypted phones delayed the probe for months and potentially jeopardized public safety, he said.
The FBI, bypassing Apple’s security features, was able to access information on both phones, but there is no guarantee that law enforcement could do that in a future case, said Attorney General William Barr. The information led to a counterterrorism operation against an associate of Alshamrani in Yemen, Abdullah al-Maliki, Barr said. The remarks, the government’s strongest yet against Apple’s stance on encryption, escalated pressure on the company to provide law enforcement access to its technology and on Congress to consider legislation that could mandate technology companies to do so. Apple said that it had responded within hours to the FBI’s first requests for help in December and provided “every piece of information available to us,” including iCloud backups, account information and transactional data, while lending continuing technical expertise to agents working the case. “The false claims made about our company are an excuse to weaken encryption and other security measures that protect millions of users and our national security,” Apple said.