Apple has issued a statement to the press in which it denies US Attorney General Bill Barr’s assertion that it has been less than helpful in assisting law enforcement with its investigation into the killing of three people at a naval base in Pensacola. A Saudi Air Force cadet is accused of being the perpetrator and Barr wants Apple to unlock iPhones.
Apple said in a statement that it has assisted law enforcement with the extraction of iCloud data relating to the suspect. It also says that it has responded to requests in a timely manner, sometimes within hours.
The US AG now wants Apple to unlock two iPhones belonging to Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani. Alshamrani is suspected of being the person responsible for the terrorist attack at the Naval Air Station in December.
However, while Apple says it will continue to assist where it can, it won’t be building back doors into iPhones to allow law enforcement officials to bypass encryption.
The full statement provided by Apple is definitely worth a read.
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.
This is clearly something that will run on and on, and Apple isn’t going to back down. Nor should it, with encryption very much at the heart of how modern technology functions. To build back doors is to break the way everything works at a very basic level. And that just isn’t something Apple, nor any other company should allow. Regardless of who is asking.
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