Attorney General William Barr has expressed disappointment at Apple for allegedly failing to provide assistance to investigators who were attempting to gain access to two iPhones used by the Pensacola shooter while accusing the technology company of double-standards in how it handles its security requests.
Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray said the phones contained previously unknown information that definitively established Alshamrani’s “significant ties” to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Authorities said the information showed that Alshamrani was radicalized before arriving in the United States for training in 2015 and had prepared for terror activities years ago.
Authorities said a day after the shooting, investigated sought and received court orders to allow them to search the contents of Alshamrani’s iPhones. They approached Apple for assistance in early January when they were unable to break through the company’s security features and had “exhausted all readily available options.”
But Apple declined to cooperate, Barr said, despite calls from the Justice Department and President Donald Trump. Wray echoed Barr's remarks saying that the FBI had "effectively no help from Apple."
The FBI took four months and large sums of taxpayer dollars to break through Apple's encryption in order to access the data on Alshamrani’s phones, Barr said.
He said Apple's desire to provide privacy for its customers is understandable but in cases where a court orders a search warrant for a criminal investigation, "an individual’s privacy interests must yield to the broader needs of public safety."
"There is no reason why companies like Apple cannot design their consumer products and apps to allow for court-authorized access by law enforcement while maintaining very high standards of data security," he said.
He also accused Apple, while citing media reports, of applying a double standard by allegedly accommodating to authoritarian regimes such as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Russian regime in order to further its business interests, such as "relocating data centers to enable bulk surveillance by those governments."
He also alleged that Apple has "reportedly disabled features and applications on iPhones used by pro-democracy advocates, thereby facilitating censorship and oppression."
"If technology companies like Apple are willing to oblige the demands of authoritarian regimes, they certainly have no excuse for failing to cooperate with rule-of-law nations that respect civil liberties and privacy rights, and have judicial safeguards," Barr said.
He also said that the circumstances in Alshamrani’s case demonstrate the need for Congress to provide a "legislative solution."
"The truth is that we needed luck, in addition to ingenuity, to get into the phones this time," he said. "There is no guarantee that we will be successful again or that a delay of four months (or longer) will not have significant consequences for the safety of Americans."
Apple did not respond to The Epoch Times' request for comment.
"It is because we take our responsibility to national security so seriously that we do not believe in the creation of a backdoor—one which will make every device vulnerable to bad actors who threaten our national security and the data security of our customers," the company said in the statement.