Trump urges Apple to unlock Pensacola gunman's phones

Trump urges Apple to unlock Pensacola gunman's phones
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal plan to contain Washington protests employs 7,600 personnel: report GOP Rep calls on primary opponent to condemn campaign surrogate's racist video Tennessee court rules all registered voters can obtain mail-in ballots due to COVID-19 MORE lashed out at Apple on Tuesday, knocking the company for refusing to unlock phones "used by killers" after the company declined to unlock devices used by the gunman in last month's shooting at an air base in Pensacola, Fla.

“We are helping Apple all of the time on TRADE and so many other issues, and yet they refuse to unlock phones used by killers, drug dealers and other violent criminal elements,” Trump tweeted Tuesday evening.

“They will have to step up to the plate and help our great Country, NOW! MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN,” the president wrote.

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Trump’s tweet underscored a widening clash between his administration and the technology company over iPhones connected to the December shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola, which Attorney General William BarrWilliam Pelham BarrFederal plan to contain Washington protests employs 7,600 personnel: report Davis: 72 hours cementing the real choice for November Black Lives Matter, protesters sue Trump admin over aggressive crowd clearing MORE labeled as terrorism in remarks on Monday.

Barr said the FBI received court authorization to search both phones possessed by the shooter the day following the Dec. 6 shooting, but that they had been “engineered to make it virtually impossible to unlock without a password.” Barr said that law enforcement had asked Apple for help in unlocking the phones but that the company had not “given us any substantive assistance.”

“This situation perfectly illustrates why it is critical that investigators be able to get access to digital evidence once they have obtained a court order based on probable cause,” Barr said. “We call on Apple and other technology companies to help us find a solution so that we can better protect the lives of Americans and prevent future attacks.”

Apple contested Barr’s accusation that the company had not offered substantive assistance, saying it had offered law enforcement a “wide variety of information” related to the investigation immediately following the attack. This included providing investigators with iCloud backups, account information and transactional information.

The company also said it wasn’t notified until Jan. 6 of a need for additional help, likely to unlock the phones.

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Apple did not say whether the company would help the government gain access to the devices themselves. It insisted it wouldn't provide a "back door" for law enforcement to access user data.

“We have always maintained there is no such thing as a back door just for the good guys. Back doors can also be exploited by those who threaten our national security and the data security of our customers,” the company said.

U.S. officials have said that Second Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, a Saudi Air Force officer, opened fire at the air station in Pensacola last month, killing three sailors and wounding eight others.

Apple has tussled with the FBI before over unlocking encrypted data. The company refused a request from the bureau in 2016 to unlock an iPhone linked to a suspect in the San Bernardino shooting. The development led to a prolonged legal fight but the FBI eventually paid a company to help it unlock the device.

Apple has maintained that it would not be able to unlock a user’s phone without creating a back door that would threaten the security of every device.