Trump turns up heat on Apple over gunman’s phone
The Department of Justice, backed by President Trump and a cohort of bipartisan lawmakers, is turning up the heat on Apple as the U.S. government presses the tech giant to unlock the phones of the Pensacola, Fla., shooter authorities say was a terrorist.
The clash comes as top U.S. officials, including Attorney General William Barr, have been pushing large tech companies to give law enforcement special access to private devices, like cellphones and computers, amid criminal investigations.
Barr has been beating the drum against Big Tech for months, arguing the companies are kneecapping vital criminal investigations as they insist on keeping their devices locked down. But the tech industry sees Barr — alongside Republican and Democratic allies — as unfairly seizing on the Pensacola investigation to bring the issue to the forefront again.
Trump jumps in: In a tweet on Tuesday, Trump lashed out at Apple, knocking the company for refusing to unlock phones “used by killers” after the company declined to unlock devices used by the gunman at last month’s shooting.
“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,” Trump tweeted Tuesday evening, echoing comments made earlier in the week by Barr.
During a press conference on Monday, Barr accused Apple of failing to provide “substantial assistance” to the FBI in its investigation of the Pensacola shooting, which killed three U.S. Navy sailors and injured eight more in early December. He said investigators have determined it was an “act of terrorism.”
Apple’s response: Apple has pushed back against Barr’s assessment of the situation, pointing out the company already turned over reams of data about the shooter to the government, including “iCloud backups, account information and transactional data for multiple accounts.”
Apple said it has been assisting with the FBI’s investigation since December but that it only received a subpoena related to information on the shooter’s second phone on Jan. 8, “which we responded to within hours.”