- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 31, 2016

The FBI on Wednesday said it will help investigators hack an Apple iPhone and iPod that may contain evidence involving a double-murder in Arkansas, only two days after the bureau announced that it had found a way to access data from a secure smart phone owned by a slain terror suspect Syed Farook.

Prosecutors in Faulkner County, Ak. had charged two teenagers with the July 2015 slaying of a married couple near Little Rock, but asked a judge on Tuesday this week to put the case on hold so it could ask Apple for assistance obtaining evidence from the mobile devices owned by 18-year-old Hunter Drexler.

Apple said one day earlier that it had finally acquired the means of unlocking an iPhone 5c recovered from Farook after he and his wife went on a mass shooting spree in San Bernardino in December, killing 14 people and injuring dozens.

The Department of Justice infamously took Apple to court earlier this year in hopes of having a federal judge compel the company to help authorities bypass a series of security features that had been enabled on Farook’s phone and prevented investigators up until now from seeing what it stored. In the midst of a high-profile back and forth that furthered a worsening rift between Washington and Silicon Valley, the FBI on Monday this week said it had found a way to unlock Farook’s iPhone.

Faulkner County Prosecuting Attorney Cody Hiland declined to discuss details of the murder case with the Associated Press on Wednesday, but acknowledged that the FBI had agreed to help less than a day after his investigators asked for assistance. 

“We always appreciate their cooperation and willingness to help their local law enforcement partners,” he told AP.

Before being aided by an unknown third-party, the Justice Department said in court documents that Apple maintained the exclusive means of bypassing the security features enabled on Farook’s phone. Once the government revealed that it had accessed the terror suspect’s data, however, Apple said authorities should test their newly acquired know-how to hack other securely protected iPhones at the center of crime investigations across the country.

Last week, Apple lawyer Marc Zwillinger wrote in a letter to a District Court judge that “it would eliminate the need for Apple’s assistance” if the method used on Farook’s phone can be applied in other cases.

“If the [Justice Department] claims that the method will not work on the iPhone here, Apple will seek to test that claim, as well as any claims by the government that other methods cannot be used,” he wrote in a document cited first by The Daily Beast.

The American Civil Liberties Union reported earlier this month that 76 cases currently exist in 22 states in which federal investigators have sought either Apple or Google’s help in hacking their own smart phones by evoking the All Write Act of 1789. The government argued that Apple should have been required under the antiquated statute to help authorities unlock Farook’s iPhone, but vacated that order after a third-party recently agreed to provide assistance.

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