The request may signal a new showdown between law enforcement and tech companies.

Unable to unlock gunman’s iPhones, the FBI (once again) asks for Apple’s help


In a move that may signal another high-stakes clash over encryption, the FBI is asking Apple for help decrypting two iPhones believed to have belonged to Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, the man suspected of carrying out a shooting attack that killed three people last month at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida.

The request came in a letter FBI General Counsel Dana Boente sent to her counterpart at Apple on Monday, NBC News reported. Boente said that, although FBI investigators obtained a search warrant to examine the phones, investigators have been unable to guess the passcodes needed to unlock them and decrypt their contents. Complicating matters, 21-year-old Alshamrani fired a round into one of the phones. A second lieutenant in the Saudi Royal Air Force, Alshamrani died in the December 6 shooting. An FBI spokeswoman confirmed the sending of the letter but declined to describe its contents, citing an ongoing investigation.

In a statement, Apple officials wrote: “We have the greatest respect for law enforcement and have always worked cooperatively to help in their investigations. 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.”

Company representatives didn’t say whether Apple would comply with the government’s request.

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