Apple ‘did offer to help FBI with Texas shooter’s iPhone’


Apple has denied a claim made by an FBI representative that it hadn’t helped unlock the iPhone left behind by the Texas church shooter.

On Tuesday Christopher Combs, the head of the FBI’s San Antonio field office, appeared to suggest that Apple was reticent to help unlock killer Devin Kelley’s iPhone.

He said that law enforcement agencies were ‘increasingly not able to get into these phones’.

Apple responded by telling Fox News: ‘Our team immediately reached out to the FBI after learning from their press conference on Tuesday that investigators were trying to access a mobile phone.

‘We offered assistance and said we would expedite our response to any legal process they send us.’


Complaint: An FBI head complained in the wake of Sunday's shooting in a church (pictured) that law enforcement agencies have struggled to get into cellphones linked to crimes

The company continued: ‘We work with law enforcement every day. We offer training to thousands of agents so they understand our devices and how they can quickly request information from Apple.’ 

Its remarks came after Combs told the press that ‘Law enforcement, whether it’s at the state, local and federal level, is increasingly not able to get into these phones.

Apple said it had immediately offered to help the FBI even though it was not contacted by authorities. It also said Kelley's thumbprint could be used to unlock the phone (file photo)

‘We’re going to keep working on that phone and other digital media we have.’ 

That wasn’t an explicit attack on Apple, but since Kelley had reportedly left behind an iPhone after his Sunday rampage – in which he killed 26 and injured 20 – the company clearly took it to heart.

It said that neither the FBI nor any other law enforcement agency had reached out about unlocking Kelley’s phone. 

The company added that police could have used his fingerprint to unlock the phone, provided it had not been locked for more than 48 hours, or turned off. 

In either of those cases, a passcode would have been required to open up the device, it said. 

Investigators could also get warrants to access Kelley’s Apple iCloud, if he has data backed up there, as well as other online accounts with different companies.

The FBI and Apple have been engaged in a public war of words since the 2015 San Bernardino shooting, when Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik killed 14 people and injured 22 more in a mass shooting.

Apple had refused to provide the FBI with a ‘back door’ that would allow agents to access the data at the phone, saying it did not want to risk its other users’ data.

Eventually, in September 2016, the Department of Justice announced that it had managed to hack into the phone and withdrew a suit it had placed against the company.

It said it had paid an unidentified group to hack the phone; a Freedom of Information request filed by several news agencies to unveil the group was denied.

The FBI and Apple have been on poor terms ever since the company refused to create a back-door into the iPhone of the San Bernardino shooters (pictured) in 2015



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