FBI phone probe links Florida shooter to al Qaeda

[BARR] “Today, I am pleased to announce that thanks to the relentless effort and ingenuity of FBI technicians, the FBI finally succeeded in unlocking Alshamrani's phone.”

U.S. Attorney General William Barr alongside FBI Director Christopher Wray announced that the FBI - without the assistance of Apple - was able to unlock the phones of 21-year old Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, a Royal Saudi Air Force trainee who killed three American sailors in an attack at a U.S. naval base in Florida.

And what it found was revealing...

[BARR] "The phones contained information, previously unknown to us, that definitively establishes Alshamrani's significant ties to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Not only before the attack, but before he even arrived in the United States."

Alshamrani was ultimately killed by law enforcement during the December 6 ambush.

Barr called on Congress to take action forcing Apple and other tech companies to help law enforcement agencies get through encryption during criminal investigations.

But ultimately FBI Director Christopher Wray says Apple was no help.

“We received effectively no help from Apple. We canvassed every partner out there that might have had a solution to access these phones. None did, despite what some claimed in the media. So we did it ourselves. Unfortunately, the technique that we developed is not a fix for our broader Apple problem, it's a pretty limited application…”

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment though back in January it was assisting the FBI.

In February, an audio recording purporting to be from the Islamist militant group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claimed responsibility for the shooting, but it provided no evidence.

Prior to the shooting spree, which also wounded eight people, the shooter posted criticism of U.S. wars and quoted slain al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on social media. He was on the base as part of a U.S. Navy training program designed to foster links with foreign allies.

After the incident, Saudi Arabia withdrew its remaining 21 cadets from the program after the Justice Department's investigation revealed that some of them had accessed child pornography or had social media accounts containing Islamic extremist or anti-American content.

Video Transcript

ATTORNEY GENERAL WILLIAM BARR: Today, I am pleased to announce that, thanks to the relentless efforts and ingenuity of FBI technicians, the FBI finally succeeded in unlocking Alshamrani's phones.

- US Attorney General William Barr, alongside FBI Director Christopher Wray, announced Monday that the FBI, without the assistance of Apple, was able to unlock the phones of 21-year-old Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, a Royal Saudi Air Force trainee, who killed three American sailors in an attack at a US Naval base in Florida. And what it found was revealing.

ATTORNEY GENERAL WILLIAM BARR: The phones contained information previously unknown to us that definitively establishes Alshamrani's significant ties to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula-- not only before the attack, but before he even arrived in the United States.

- Alshamrani was ultimately killed by law enforcement during the December 6th ambush. Barr called on Congress to take action forcing Apple and other tech companies to help law enforcement agencies get through encryption during criminal investigations. But ultimately FBI director Christopher Wray says Apple was no help.

FBI DIRECTOR CHRISTOPHER WRAY: We received effectively no help from Apple. We canvassed every partner out there and every company that might have had a solution to access these phones. None did, despite what some claimed in the media. So we did it ourselves. Unfortunately, the technique that we developed is not a fix for our broader Apple problem. It's a pretty limited application.

- Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment, though back in January it was assisting the FBI. In February, an audio recording, purporting to be from the Islamist militant group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, claimed responsibility for the shooting. But it provided no evidence prior to the shooting spree, which also wounded eight people. The shooter posted criticism of US wars and quoted slain al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on social media.

He was on the base as part of a US navy training program designed to foster links with foreign allies. After the incident, Saudi Arabia withdrew its remaining 21 cadets from the program after the Justice Department's investigation revealed that some of them had access to child pornography or had social media accounts containing Islamic extremist or anti-American content.