After being denied assist from Apple, FBI investigators have been capable of entry the contents of the phones that belonged to the Saudi aviation scholar who shot and killed three American sailors in December 2019 at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Legal professional Normal Invoice Barr stated Monday.
Barr stated the FBI now has confirmed the shooter had been in contact with Al Qaeda earlier than finishing up the assault.
The breakthrough surrounding the units as soon as owned by Mohammed Alshamrani, a 21-year-old 2nd Lieutenant within the Royal Saudi Air Pressure, got here on account of the “relentless efforts and ingenuity of FBI technicians,” Barr stated.
“The phones contained information previously unknown to us that definitively establishes Alshamrani’s significant ties to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) — not only before the attack but before he even arrived in the United States,” he stated. “We now have a clearer understanding of Alshamrani’s associations and activities in the years, months, and days leading up to his attack.”
Following the Dec. 6 taking pictures, the FBI requested Apple for assist in accessing information from a pair of iPhones owned by the gunman, as investigators had been unsuccessful in unlocking the units.
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“It was clear at the time that the phones were likely to contain very important information,” Barr stated Monday. “Indeed, Alshamrani attempted to destroy both of the phones, even going so far as to disengage from the gunfight long enough to fire a bullet into one of the phones.”
He added, “Unfortunately, Apple would not help us unlock the phones.”
The data ultimately recovered from the phones indicated that Alshamrani’s “preparations for terror began years ago,” in line with an announcement from the Justice Division.
“He had been radicalized by 2015, and having connected and associated with AQAP operatives, joined the Royal Saudi Air Force in order to carry out a ‘special operation,'” the Justice Division stated. “In the months before the Dec. 6, 2019 attack, while in the United States, Alshamrani had specific conversations with overseas AQAP associates about plans and tactics. In fact, he was communicating with AQAP right up until the attack, and conferred with his associates until the night before he undertook the murders.”
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FBI Director Christopher Wray stated the “evidence we have been able to develop from the killer’s devices shows that the Pensacola attack was actually the brutal culmination of years of planning and preparation by a longtime AQAP associate.”
“He was meticulous in his planning. He made pocket cam videos as he cased his classroom building,” Wray added. “He wrote a final will purporting to explain himself and saved it in his phone — the exact same will that AQAP released two months later when they initially claimed responsibility.”
Barr stated the U.S. additionally has used data from the cellphone to launch a current counterterrorism operation towards certainly one of Alshamrani’s abroad associates based mostly in Yemen.
“We will not hesitate to act against those who harm Americans,” Barr added.
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Apple responded in an announcement Monday afternoon: “As a proud American company, we consider supporting law enforcement’s important work our responsibility. The false claims made about our company are an excuse to weaken encryption and other security measures that protect millions of users and our national security.”
The assertion additionally learn: “We sell the same iPhone everywhere, we don’t store customers’ passcodes and we don’t have the capacity to unlock passcode-protected devices. In data centers, we deploy strong hardware and software security protections to keep information safe and to ensure there are no backdoors into our systems. All of these practices apply equally to our operations in every country in the world.”
The FBI beforehand battled the tech big for entry to information saved on an iPhone following the 2015 mass taking pictures in San Bernardino, Calif. Like within the Pensacola taking pictures case, Apple didn’t assist investigators, however the FBI ultimately succeeded in accessing the machine’s contents.
Appearing Division of Homeland Safety [DHS] Secretary Chad Wolf responded Monday, “The FBI findings from the tragic Pensacola navy base shooting last December illustrate that the enduring threat from terrorist organizations, such as Al Qaeda, continues. This incident is a stark reminder that terrorist organizations are just as determined to attack us today as on September 11, 2001. DHS continues to support the investigation and, in the wake of the attack, DHS supported the Departments of State and Department of Defense in reviewing screening and vetting procedures for foreign military students.”
Barr in January referred to as the assault an “act of terrorism,” noting that Alshamrani was “motivated by jihadist ideology.”
“During the course of the investigation, we learned that the shooter posted a message on September 11,  stating, ‘the countdown has begun,'” Barr additionally stated that month. “In the course of the Thanksgiving weekend, he then visited the 9/11 Memorial in New York Metropolis.
“He also posted other anti-American, anti-Israeli, and jihadi messages on social media, including two hours before his attack,” Barr added.
Senior legislation enforcement officers informed Fox Information the assault lasted 15 minutes and Alshamrani used a Glock 9mm that had 5 prolonged magazines. The gun, they added, was bought legally in Florida.
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A deputy from the Escambia County Sheriff’s Workplace finally shot and killed Alshamrani.
NAS Pensacola is dwelling to the Naval Schooling and Coaching Safety Help Subject Exercise’s Worldwide Coaching Heart, which Navy officers stated was “established in 1988 to meet the aviation-specific training needs of international officers and enlisted students from allied nations.”
Fox Information’ Ashley Cozzolino, David Spunt and Fox Enterprise’ Susan Li and Hillary Vaughn contributed to this report.