Update: Attorney General William Barr ratcheted up the standoff when, according to the New York Times, he declared the shooting an act of terrorism. Barr issued an extraordinarily high-profile call for Apple to provide access to the gunman’s two iPhones. He also said that to date Apple has provided no “substantive assistance” in doing so. The development further suggests that the 2016 high-stakes clash pitting privacy against national security are likely to play out again. What follows is the article as it appeared from 1/7/2020:
In a move that may signal another high-stakes clash over encryption, the FBI is asking Apple for help decrypting two iPhones believed to have belonged to Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, the man suspected of carrying out a shooting attack that killed three people last month at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida.
The request came in a letter FBI General Counsel Dana Boente sent to his counterpart at Apple on Monday, NBC News reported. Boente said that, although FBI investigators obtained a search warrant to examine the phones, investigators have been unable to guess the passcodes needed to unlock them and decrypt their contents. Complicating matters, 21-year-old Alshamrani fired a round into one of the phones. A second lieutenant in the Saudi Royal Air Force, Alshamrani died in the December 6 shooting. An FBI spokeswoman confirmed the sending of the letter but declined to describe its contents, citing an ongoing investigation.
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