U.S. Attorney General Barr asks Apple to unlock iPhones of Pensacola shooter (PLUS what is Apple’s defense)

This appeared in The Millennial Source

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Following a deadly December shooting in Pensacola, Fla., United States Attorney General William Barr has pressed Apple Inc. to help unlock a pair of iPhones believed to belong to the gunman. In a press conference Monday, Barr stated the shooting, which resulted in four deaths, was determined to be a terrorist attack. The gunman was a Saudi national who was training with the U.S. military.

The request by the U.S. Department of Justice to have the phones unlocked is similar to a request the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) made in 2016. At that time, the bureau was seeking to unlock the phone of a shooter who was involved with a 2015 San Bernardino attack that left 16 dead.

What happened in Pensacola

Alshamrani, who was a second lieutenant in the Royal Saudi Air Force, was part of a Saudi-funded program to train with the U.S. Air Force. The training involved aviation training as well as studies in English.

Motivation for the shooting

However, on Monday, Barr announced the motivation for the attack was “jihadist ideology,” which refers to militaristic actions based on extremist Islamic beliefs, according to The Hill. No direct link to any specific terrorist group has been found for the attack, though.

A month-long investigation found that Alshamrani had posted messages on social media platforms that were deemed anti-American and anti-Israeli. The most recent messages were posted just two hours before the attacks. On September 11, 2019, he posted a message that simply said, “The countdown has begun.”

According to FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich, Alshamrani shot at pictures of U.S. President Donald Trump and another president during the attack, according to The Washington Post. Witnesses also said they heard the shooter making unfavorable statements about the actions of the U.S. military in other countries.

Unlocking Alshamrani’s phone

iPhones have a security feature that can result in all the data on the phone being erased after six or 10 incorrect attempts, depending on the model, to enter the passcode, according to Business Insider. For that reason, investigators cannot simply attempt to break into a phone through repeated attempts.

Apple has shared information from Alshamrani’s iCloud account, but the company has so far refused to provide a means of cracking the two phones. This is consistent with the stance the company took in 2016.

Apple’s defense of civil liberties

Following the shooting, an iPhone used by one of the shooters was recovered. The Department of Justice approached Apple Inc. about it opening the phone by creating a “backdoor” to bypass the passcode, according to The Guardian. The DOJ and FBI argued that they needed access to the phone to better investigate the shooting and provide justice for the victims.

The backdoor that the FBI recommended would have involved creating a new operating system that could be loaded onto the phone, according to WIRED. This OS would not include a limit on incorrect passcode attempts. In that way, Apple wouldn’t be providing the code; it would simply be allowing the authorities the ability to crack the code without the possibility of data deletion.

Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, refused to comply with the US government, even going to court to assert their right to refuse. Cook cited the need to protect civil liberties as his reason for his company’s refusal to cooperate. In an internal email, he said the “data security of hundreds of millions of law-abiding people” was at stake. The U.S. government backed down and Apple was not required to create the backdoor.

The U.S. expels 21 Saudis

Originally published at https://themilsource.com on January 16, 2020.

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