WASHINGTON — Federal investigators were continuing Tuesday to review the contents of a San Bernardino terrorist’s smartphone, a day after the Justice Department lawyers told a federal judge that they no longer needed Apple Inc.’S assistance to gain access to the previously locked device.
A federal law enforcement official, who is not authorized to comment publicly, said the phone has yielded material related to Syed Farook’s work as a health inspector for San Bernardino County. But the official did not know whether the information included records of direct communication with any of the victims in the December shooting or other exchanges that may be related to the assault carried out by Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik.
Both attackers later died in a shootout with police.
Authorities have defended their pursuit of the phone’s contents, including obtaining a federal magistrate’s order directing Apple to assist the government, to determine whether Farook specifically targeted fellow workers at the December office party or was assisted by others unknown to investigators.
1,000 locked devices in limbo after FBI quits iPhone case.
Justice lawyers abandoned their defense of the court order Monday, when they informed the judge that a technique developed by an unidentified entity was successful in allowing investigators to gain access to the phone.
“We sought an order compelling Apple to help unlock the phone to fulfill a solemn commitment to the victims of the San Bernardino shooting – that we will not rest until we have fully pursued every investigative lead related to the vicious attack,” California U.S. Attorney Eileen Decker said after the Justice filing. “Although this step in the investigation is now complete, we will continue to explore every lead, and seek any appropriate legal process, to ensure our investigation collects all of the evidence related to this terrorist attack.”.
Meanwhile, the entity that assisted the FBI in bypassing the phone’s security function has completed its work, the federal law enforcement official said. The party, which authorities have refused to identify, was paid for the work, though the official declined to say how much.
Apple v FBI timeline.
It is unclear, the official said, whether the technique developed by the outside entity can or will be applied to assist in unlocking other devices seized as part of other unrelated investigations.
The official said a discussion within the government is continuing on the question of whether to share the technique with Apple.