Justice Department finally gets into terror suspect's iPhone, drops salty legal fight with Apple

"We are now able to unlock that iPhone without compromising any information on the phone," federal prosecutors said Monday.

By Doug G. Ware

WASHINGTON, March 28 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Justice has dropped its contentious weeks-long legal battle with tech giant Apple, prosecutors said Monday, after FBI agents were able to finally break into the smartphone of San Bernardino suspect Syed Farook.

Justice prosecutors have been working since Feb. 16 to legally force assistance from the California phone-maker. Apple, though, defied a court's order and refused to help agents break into Farook's iPhone 5, out of security and privacy concerns.


Federal investigators previously stated that agents were hung up on the smartphone's security passcode, required to access and navigate the device, and needed Apple to create a program to disable the security feature.

Monday, prosecutors said agents were finally able to get the code, with the help of a different third party -- and, thus, they no longer need the company's help.

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The FBI wanted Apple to create a program to disable an iPhone feature that resets the device and erases all of its content if the incorrect passcode is entered too many times. The legal fight produced numerous concerns from both the federal government and privacy advocates over the matter.


The Justice Department argued that companies like Apple ought to lend assistance to investigators because it might allow for more effective fighting against terrorism. Critics, though, said giving officials that power can lead to serious security and privacy issues in the future.

"Our decision to conclude the litigation was based solely on the fact that, with the recent assistance of a third party, we are now able to unlock that iPhone without compromising any information on the phone," prosecutors said in a statement.

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Prosecutors previously questioned Apple's motive in refusing to cooperate in the San Bernardino terror investigation -- saying the company has helped agents break into locked phones on dozens of occasions in the past.

Last week marked the first time the Justice Department indicated that it might be able to get into Farook's smartphone without Apple's help.

Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, are accused of participating in the Dec. 2 attack that killed 14 people at San Bernardino's Inland Regional Center, where Farook worked.

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