FBI Cracks Phone of Shooter on Base, Finds al-Qaeda Link

Saudi shooter at Pensacola naval base killed 3 Americans
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 18, 2020 10:20 AM CDT
FBI Cracks Phone of Shooter on Base, Finds al-Qaeda Link
In this Dec. 16, 2019, photo, sailors carry the casket of Cameron Walters at Oak Hill Cemetery in Richmond Hill, Ga. Walters was one of three Navy sailors killed in a Saudi gunman's attack at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Florida on Dec. 6, 2019.   (Steve Bisson/Savannah Morning News via AP)

Last year, a Saudi military officer training at a US naval base in Florida shot and killed three American sailors and wounded eight others. Now, federal authorities have finally broken into one or both of his iPhones and discovered a link to al-Qaeda, reports the New York Times. The gunman, Mohammed Alshamrani, had been in contact with an al-Qaeda operative before the December attack at the Pensacola Naval Air Station, per the AP. Exactly how much help al-Qaeda provided in the attack is still unclear, but Attorney General William Barr and FBI chief Chris Wray were expected to flesh out details later Monday.

If Alshamrani was indeed trained or directed by al-Qaeda, this would be the first time since 9/11 that a foreign terrorist group has played such a role in an attack in the US, according to CNN. Alshamrani was killed in the attack, and authorities found two damaged iPhones in his possession. He deliberately shot one of his own phones during the assault, notes the Times, suggesting it contained information he wanted to keep secret. Apple has refused to help federal authorities get past the phones' encryption, and the FBI finally managed to do so without the company's help. "There is no such thing as a back door just for the good guys," declared Apple earlier this year, justifying its refusal to help in cracking the phones. (Read more al-Qaeda stories.)

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