Declaring a shooting last fall at a Pensacola naval base a terrorist act, Attorney General William Barr struck a familiar chord – pressing Apple for help unlocking iPhones associated with the investigation of the incident.
Barr assailed the phone maker for not having “given any substantive assistance” as authorities try to obtain data on two damaged phones – one of which appeared to have been deliberately shot – owned by a Saudi airman being trained at the Naval Air Station.
But Apple took issue with Barr’s rebuke, noting it had aided investigators.
“We reject the characterization that Apple has not provided substantive assistance in the Pensacola investigation,” the company said in a statement, according to CBS News.
“Our responses to their many requests since the attack have been timely, thorough and are ongoing,” the Apple said, noting it had found about the second iPhone only recently. “We are continuing to work with the FBI, and our engineering teams recently had a call to provide additional technical assistance.”
In 2016 the tech company butted heads with the government over a locked iPhone used by a gunman in a mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif. Apple stuck to its guns and prepared to meet the Justice Department in court but the government pulled out at the last minute, after it was able to access the phone’s contents through a third party.
“Like four years ago, the government’s demand would weaken the security of millions of iPhones, and is dangerous and unconstitutional. Strong encryption enables religious minorities facing genocide, like the Uyghurs in China, and journalists investigating powerful drug cartels in Mexico, to communicate safely with each other, knowledgeable sources, and the outside world,” ACLU Surveillance and Cybersecurity Counsel Jennifer Granick said in a statement. “There is simply no way for Apple, or any other company, to provide the FBI access to encrypted communications without also providing it to authoritarian foreign governments and weakening our defenses against criminals and hackers.”