As the Justice Department announced Monday that a December mass shooting by a member of the Saudi air force was a 'terrorist act,' U.S. Attorney General William Barr issued a public plea to Apple to help unlock the phones of the shooter, in order to further explore the gunman's motivations and any possible contacts.
"We have asked Apple for their help in unlocking the shooter’s iPhones," Barr said at a Justice Department news conference about the attack at the Pensacola Naval Air Station. "So far Apple has not given us any substantive assistance."
Barr said even with a court order, the feds are not able to crack into the suspects iPhones without the password, a situation which is presenting itself with increasing frequency for law enforcement investigators.
"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," Barr said.
Barr said the investigation revealed that the shooter, Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani of the Royal Saudi Air Force, actually put one of his phones on the ground during his shooting rampage in order to damage it.
"During the gunfight with first responders, the shooter disengaged long enough to place one of the phones on the floor and shoot a single round into the device," Barr said.
The Attorney General told reporters that Alshamrani's other phone had also been damaged, but that the feds had been able to get both devices to work - but could not crack them open because of the password barrier.