Should federal agents be hacking into iPhones? The issue came up before in a mass shooting case, and now, with the Pensacola shooting under investigation, it's back in the headlines. Attorney General William Barr asked Apple to help unlock two iPhones used by terrorist suspect Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani—who killed three service members and injured several others in December—but Apple declined, CNBC reports. "We reject the characterization that Apple has not provided substantive assistance in the Pensacola investigation," Apple said Monday. In short, Apple said it has provided gigabytes of data from "iCloud backups, account information and transactional data for multiple accounts" on the phones.
But Justice Dept. officials want access to other data and encrypted messages from apps like WhatsApp and Signal to see if Alshamrani was plotting with others at the Navy base in Florida, the New York Times reports. Apple's argument: If it gives Justice the keys to iPhones, those keys will leak out and be used by bad actors. But Barr argues that law enforcement trumps personal-data security: "We don't want to get into a world where we have to spend months and even years exhausting efforts when lives are in the balance," he says. Officials say the FBI initially asked private companies, government agencies, and foreign governments to hack the Pensacola iPhones, but none could do it. (Back in 2016, a third party was able to hack the iPhone of a mass shooter.)