Apple is offering the FBI 'no substantive assistance' in unlocking two iPhones related to a shooting case, says Attorney General Barr

Tim Cook

Yves Herman/Reuters

Tim Cook at the European Union's privacy conference in Brussels.

  • Attorney General William Barr told reporters Monday that Apple has given the FBI "no substantive assistance" in its investigation into a deadly shooting last month at a Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida.
  • The FBI has asked for Apple's help unlocking two iPhones used by the shooter, a request Apple has refused.
  • Apple previously refused a similar request from the FBI following a deadly shooting in San Bernardino, California, setting off a fierce public debate over whether the company should be required to offer the government tools to counter its own encryption technology.
  • Barr's statement Monday indicated that the FBI and Apple are still at odds over the issue, which the company has framed as a matter of preserving users' privacy.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Attorney General William Barr told reporters in a press conference Monday that, "so far, Apple has not given any substantive assistance" to the FBI in its investigation into a deadly shooting at Pensacola, Florida, Naval Air Station.

The FBI sent a letter to Apple on January 8 asking for its help unlocking two iPhones used by the shooter. On Monday, Barr said that Apple has refused that request.
"When the FBI requested information from us relating to this case a month ago, we gave them all of the data in our possession and we will continue to support them with the data we have available," an Apple spokesperson said last week.

This is not the first time Apple and the FBI have butt heads on the issue.

In 2015, Apple refused a similar request from the agency to unlock an iPhone used by one of the shooters in the San Bernardino case, on the grounds that doing so would require Apple to give the FBI tools to counter the company's encryption, creating a "backdoor" that could be used to access other devices. The FBI ended up suing Apple for defying the court order, though it ultimately dropped the case after finding a private company to help it unlock the phone.

Agency officials have repeatedly criticized tech companies' use of encryption, saying that it prevents law enforcement from following leads and obtaining evidence that could aid in an investigation.

"This situation perfectly illustrates why it is critical that the public be able to get access to digital evidence once it has obtained a court order based on probable cause," Barr said during the press conference Monday.Monday's press conference confirmed that, for now, Apple is doubling down what it sees as its commitment to user privacy by refusing to assist the FBI in its investigation.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Signup Today: Free Daily Newsletter from Business Insider Intelligence