Apple Ordered to Unlock San Bernardino Shooter's iPhone
Company 'declined to provide that assistance voluntarily'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 17, 2016 12:59 AM CST
This July 27, 2014, photo shows Tashfeen Malik and Syed Farook as they passed through O'Hare International Airport in Chicago.   (US Customs and Border Protection via AP, File)

(Newser) – After more than two months of being thwarted by encryption technology—and by an uncooperative Apple—federal investigators have turned to the courts to try to get into San Bernardino gunman Syed Farook's locked iPhone. At a hearing on Tuesday, a federal judge ordered Apple to help the FBI access encrypted data on the phone, NBC News reports. "Apple has the exclusive technical means which would assist the government in completing its search, but has declined to provide that assistance voluntarily," prosecutors said. The FBI says it needs Apple's help to bypass the auto-erase function and allow investigators to submit an unlimited number of passwords without fear of destroying critical information.

The FBI suspects that the iPhone 5c issued to Farook by his employer, the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, could hold information on possible accomplices in the Dec. 2 massacre, as well as clues to the couple's whereabouts during a mysterious 18-minute stretch after the shooting, the Los Angeles Times reports. According to a court filing, Farook used the phone to communicate with wife and fellow shooter Tashfeen Malik, as well as with colleagues he later killed. The FBI says the device stopped communicating with the iCloud server on Oct. 19, 2015, suggesting Malik disabled the feature weeks before the shooting to hide evidence. The LAT notes that it's Apple policy to require subpoenas or search warrants before it helps investigations.