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Authorities serve Apple a warrant for Texas shooter's iPhone

21 November 2017

Well, it might all happen again, as authorities have served Apple a search warrant for the iPhone SE belonging to the Sutherland Springs shooter who killed 26 people a couple of weeks ago in Texas.

Texas Rangers investigating the shooting believe the iPhone could contain photos, messages and other data that may be of use. The warrant requests the files on shooter Kelley's iPhone SE and in his iCloud account (if one exists).

The FBI is unlikely to try to make a federal legal case out of a locked iPhone used by a lone Texas gunman who fatally shot more than two dozen churchgoers two weeks ago, according to USA officials.

Authorities want access to the phone's contents, as well as iCloud data, but they may have a hard time obtaining it.

The FBI wanted Apple to create software that could circumvent the iPhone's touch security that permanently locks the phone if someone incorrectly guesses the phone's passcode too many times. "We are unable to get into that phone", Combs said during a news conference. Investigators also have a warrant to extract data stored on Kelley's second handset, an LG flip-phone.

Last year, Apple (aapl) refused to comply with a court order in which the Justice Department sought help from the tech giant to unlock the iPhone of one of the shooters involved with the December 2015 San Bernardino, Calif. terrorist shooting.

In response to the justice department announcement, Apple said this case should have never been brought to court as "it was wrong and would set a unsafe precedent". In the San Bernardino case, the Federal Bureau of Investigation found the perpetrators were inspired by the Islamic State and investigators were seeking clues to other plots that might be contained in one of the killer's phones.

As TechCrunch explains, Apple has been proactive in this case, reaching out to authorities in early November and offering assistance. In the Sutherland Springs case, Apple has not received a request for technical assistance with the phone, a spokesperson said.

The FBI's statements about decrypting Kelley's iPhone have ignited speculation that another showdown between Apple and the FBI over encryption is in the works.

Some Trump political appointees at Justice have expressed hope that the Texas case could provide the victory that eluded them in the department's last battle with Apple over the phone of a terrorist in San Bernardino, Calif. In the wake of the San Bernardino stand-off, that's probably impossible now. It remains to be seen whether investigators will be able to find out.