Trump urges Apple to unlock Pensacola gunman’s iPhones

President Trump weighed in on Apple’s likely impending pitched battle with the government over unlocking a terrorist’s iPhone, encouraging the tech company to  help the Justice Department access the contents of two phones associated with the Saudi airman who went on a shooting spree at the Pensacola Naval Station last fall.

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

But by doing so and providing what would be essentially a backdoor into its phones, Apple would make its products less secure, opponents argued.

Apple is preparing for a potential legal battle with the Justice Department as the two continue to argue over whether the company should help law enforcement officials access two iPhones used by a suspected gunman in the shooting last month at the Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida, according to people with knowledge of the matter. Tensions escalated Tuesday night when President Donald Trump weighed in on the issue in a tweet, saying his administration helps Apple "all of the time" on trade and other issues and that the company needs "to step up to the plate and help our great Country."

"The government’s demand is dangerous and unconstitutional, and would weaken the security of millions of iPhones,” said ACLU Surveillance and Cybersecurity Counsel Jennifer Granick. “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.”

In granting “the FBI’s request for a backdoor, Apple would need to create a central repository of keys or a master key,” said Manu Fontaine, CEO of Hushmesh and former head of safety, security and privacy products at AOL. “That would make them a target for hackers, because no backdoor is ever only for the good guys. Just look at what happened with the recent Capital One hack: although they did encrypt the data, the hacker got her hands on both the encrypted data and the decryption keys.”

Granick contended there’s no way for the tech giant “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."

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