Attorney General William Barr wants Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) to provide federal officials with access to two smartphones used by a gunman who killed three and wounded eight during a shooting last month at a Florida naval air station.
The Justice Department said Monday the shooting was a "terrorist act." Barr said at a news conference on the investigation into the attack at Pensacola Naval Air Station that the shooter, Saudi Royal Air Force officer Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, shot one of his phones during the attack, presumably to prevent information from being gleaned from it by investigators. Alshamrani was killed during the shootout.
"We have asked Apple for their help in unlocking the shooter’s iPhones," Barr said. "So far Apple has not given us any substantive assistance."
Has This Happened Before?
The disagreement harkens back to an earlier dispute over the same issue and escalates a disagreement between Apple and the federal government on the issue of privacy versus public safety.
After a gunman killed 14 people in a terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif., in 2015, Apple defied a court order to help the FBI unlock the shooter's phone. The FBI got around Apple, by finding a private company able to unlock the iPhone's encryption, over Apple's objections.
In both cases, the shooters were deceased, and courts have found that dead people no longer have a right to privacy.