Last December, a Saudi Arabian cadet training with the US military opened fire at Naval Air Station Pensacola, killing three soldiers and wounding eight others. The FBI recovered two iPhones, and after failing to access their data, asked Apple to unlock them. The company refused, but eventually the FBI unlocked at least one of them without Apple’s help, and discovered substantial ties between the shooter and terrorist group al Qaeda. US Attorney General Barr suggests forcing Apple to take action in the future, saying “...if not for our FBI’s ingenuity, some luck, and hours upon hours of time and resources, this information would have remained undiscovered. The bottom line: our national security cannot remain in the hands of big corporations who put dollars over lawful access and public safety. The time has come for a legislative solution.”
It’s not clear if the shooting was an order from al Qaeda, but the data shows that the shooter was in touch for an extended period of time with the organization, including its leadership. During the attack, he shot both phones in an attempt to destroy them, and he had been using apps with end-to-end encryption in order to communicate with the terrorist group. The FBI was able to access the data regardless, though Attorney General Barr and FBI Director Chris Wray suggest that results would have come much quicker if Apple had helped to unlock the phones.