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Apple Reiterates Stance on Privacy in Response to AG Barr Request to Unlock Pensacola Shooter’s Phone

The Apple Inc. logo is seen hanging at the entrance to the Apple store on 5th Avenue in New York, U.S., October 16, 2019. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Apple on Monday reiterated the company’s commitment to privacy in response to Attorney General William Barr’s request to help investigators unlock the phone of the Saudi national who shot and killed three people at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Fla. in December.

“We have always maintained there is no such thing as a backdoor just for the good guys,” the company said in a statement. “Backdoors can also be exploited by those who threaten our national security and the data security of our customers…We feel strongly encryption is vital to protecting our country and our users’ data.”

The company did not directly mention Barr’s request to unlock the shooter’s phone.

Barr confirmed the shooting by Saudi air force student Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani was an act of terror “motivated by jihadist ideology” earlier Monday.

“So far Apple has not given us any substantive assistance,” Barr said at a press conference. “This situation perfectly illustrates why it is critical that investigators be able to get access to digital evidence once they have obtained a court order based on probable cause…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.”

In the wake of the attack, all Saudi air force students at the Pensacola base were barred from instruction pending an investigation. The U.S. subsequently expelled 21 Saudi students, some of whom were suspected of ties to extremist groups and others reportedly in possession of child pornography. None of those students aided Alshamrani, and Barr said the expulsions were conducted in consultation with the government of Saudi Arabia.

Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.

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