THE The U.S.

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY DEVLIN BAR­RETT AND MATT ZAPO­TO­SKY­[email protected]­ matt.zapo­to­[email protected]­ Ka­reem Fahim con­trib­uted to this re­port.

NA­TION at­tor­ney gen­eral said the De­cem­ber shoot­ing that killed three U.S. sailors at a Florida base was an act of ter­ror­ism.

At­tor­ney Gen­eral Wil­liam P. Barr said Mon­day that the De­cem­ber shoot­ing that killed three U.S. sailors on a Florida base was an act of ter­ror­ism, as of­fi­cials re­vealed har­row­ing new de­tails about the 15-minute ram­page and pub­licly called out Ap­ple Inc. to help them un­lock the killer’s phones.

At a news con­fer­ence to dis­cuss the re­sults of the FBI’S in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the shoot­ing at Naval Air Sta­tion Pen­sacola, Barr said in­ves­ti­ga­tors had found ev­i­dence that Ahmed Mo­hammed al-sham­rani, a Royal Saudi Air Force mem­ber train­ing at the base, was mo­ti­vated by “ji­hadist ide­ol­ogy” and had posted anti-amer­i­can mes­sages on so­cial me­dia about two hours be­fore his at­tack.

FBI Deputy Di­rec­tor David Bowdich said that dur­ing the at­tack, Sham­rani fired shots at pic­tures of Pres­i­dent Trump and a past U.S. pres­i­dent, and wit­nesses at the scene said he made state­ments crit­i­cal of Amer­i­can mil­i­tary ac­tions over­seas. Bowdich said that while Sham­rani did not seem to be in­spired by one spe­cific ter­ror­ist group, he har­bored an­ti­Amer­i­can and anti-is­raeli views and felt “vi­o­lence was nec­es­sary.” Bowdich said the gun­man’s so­cial me­dia com­ments echoed those of An­war al-awlaki, a rad­i­cal Ye­meni Amer­i­can cleric tied to the ter­ror­ist group al-qaeda who was killed in a drone strike in 2011.

Mon­day’s an­nounce­ment of­fered the most defini­tive ac­count of the gun­man’s ac­tions and think­ing. Bowdich said in­ves­ti­ga­tors in­ter­viewed more than 500 peo­ple — in­clud­ing wit­nesses, base per­son­nel and friends and class­mates of the shooter — and col­lected more than 42 ter­abytes of dig­i­tal in­for­ma­tion.

But in­ves­ti­ga­tors have been stymied in try­ing to ac­cess two key pieces of ev­i­dence — the gun­man’s iphones. Stand­ing be­fore gi­ant pho­to­graphs of two se­verely dam­aged de­vices, the at­tor­ney gen­eral pub­licly urged Ap­ple to act.

“So far, Ap­ple has not given us any sub­stan­tive as­sis­tance,” Barr said, though aides later clar­i­fied that Ap­ple had, in fact, given in­ves­ti­ga­tors ac­cess to cloud data linked to the gun­man. “This sit­u­a­tion per­fectly il­lus­trates why it is crit­i­cal that in­ves­ti­ga­tors be able to get ac­cess to dig­i­tal ev­i­dence once they have ob­tained a court or­der.”

Barr did not say whether the Jus­tice Depart­ment would seek a court or­der to force Ap­ple’s com­pli­ance. The depart­ment filed le­gal pa­pers on a sim­i­lar case in 2016, but the is­sue was never re­solved by a higher court.

Of­fi­cials said Sham­rani in­ten­tion­ally fired a round into one of the phones dur­ing his ram­page.

In a lengthy state­ment, Ap­ple dis­puted the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s de­scrip­tion of its role, say­ing the com­pany be­gan re­spond­ing within hours of the first FBI re­quest on Dec. 6 and has turned over “many gi­ga­bytes” of data in the case.

“Our re­sponses to their many re­quests since the at­tack have been timely, thor­ough and are on­go­ing,” the com­pany said. “The FBI only no­ti­fied us on Jan­uary 6th that they needed ad­di­tional as­sis­tance — a month af­ter the at­tack oc­curred. . . . Early outreach is crit­i­cal to ac­cess­ing in­for­ma­tion and find­ing ad­di­tional op­tions.”

Even with­out the phone data, in­ves­ti­ga­tors were able to re­view Sham­rani’s so­cial me­dia post­ings, which were crit­i­cal to the of­fi­cials’ de­ter­mi­na­tion.

In declar­ing the in­ci­dent ter­ror­ism, Barr noted that on Sept. 11, Sham­rani posted a mes­sage on so­cial me­dia say­ing, “The count­down has be­gun.” Over the Thanks­giv­ing week­end, Barr said, Sham­rani vis­ited the me­mo­rial in New York City to those killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, ter­ror­ist at­tacks. Fif­teen of the 19 hi­jack­ers who car­ried out those at­tacks were Saudis.

Barr said that while it was ini­tially re­ported that Sham­rani ar­rived to the shoot­ing with oth­ers, who filmed it, those ac­counts turned out to be in­cor­rect. The shooter, he said, ar­rived alone, though other cadets who hap­pened to be in the area did film the en­su­ing com­mo­tion.

Bowdich said the in­ci­dent lasted about 15 min­utes, with au­thor­i­ties in­ter­ven­ing to stop the at­tack af­ter about eight min­utes. Barr sin­gled out sailor Ryan Black­well, who he said — de­spite hav­ing been shot five times — jumped on top of a fel­low ser­vice mem­ber to pre­vent her from be­ing shot and helped oth­ers get to safety.

The gun­man, who used a semi­au­to­matic hand­gun he pur­chased legally via an ex­cep­tion that al­lows non-u.s. cit­i­zens with hunt­ing li­censes to do so, was fa­tally shot by a sher­iff ’s deputy.

Bowdich said in­ves­ti­ga­tors had not found ev­i­dence that the shooter acted with any­one else — though of­fi­cials said they had un­cov­ered trou­bling con­duct by other Saudi mil­i­tary mem­bers train­ing in the United States. Jus­tice Depart­ment of­fi­cials, speak­ing on the con­di­tion of anonymity to dis­cuss the diplo­mat­i­cally sen­si­tive mat­ter, said that while of­fi­cials were con­fi­dent Sham­rani had no U.s.-based co­con­spir­a­tor, they were still in­ter­ested in po­ten­tial in­ter­ac­tions he might have had with those in Saudi Ara­bia.

Barr said in­ves­ti­ga­tors had found ev­i­dence that 17 Saudis had through so­cial me­dia shared ji­hadist or anti-amer­i­can ma­te­rial and 15 — in­clud­ing some of those who had shared anti-amer­i­can ma­te­rial — were found to have had con­tact with or possessed child pornog­ra­phy.

Barr said only one of those peo­ple had a “sig­nif­i­cant num­ber” of im­ages, and U.S. at­tor­neys had re­viewed each case and de­ter­mined such peo­ple would not nor­mally be charged with fed­eral crimes. He said 21 cadets from Saudi Ara­bia had been dis­en­rolled from their train­ing and would be re­turn­ing to the king­dom later Mon­day. Jus­tice Depart­ment of­fi­cials said 12 were from the Pen­sacola base, and nine were from other mil­i­tary bases.

U.s.-saudi re­la­tions re­main strained af­ter the 2018 killing of Ja­mal Khashoggi, a Saudi jour­nal­ist and Wash­ing­ton Post colum­nist — in the Saudi con­sulate in Is­tan­bul by men al­legedly with close ties to the high­est lev­els of the Saudi gov­ern­ment.

Jus­tice Depart­ment of­fi­cials said they had re­ceived an un­prece­dented level of co­op­er­a­tion from the Saudi gov­ern­ment in the Pen­sacola case.

In a state­ment, the Em­bassy of the King­dom of Saudi Ara­bia said: “The dis­turbed and rad­i­cal­ized in­di­vid­ual who car­ried out this ter­ri­ble at­tack acted alone. He does not rep­re­sent the hun­dreds of thou­sands of Saudis who have lived, stud­ied and trained in the United States over the past sev­eral decades, nor does his heinous act rep­re­sent the val­ues of Saudi Ara­bia. . . . Saudi Ara­bia will con­tinue to co­op­er­ate with US au­thor­i­ties should they re­quire ad­di­tional in­for­ma­tion.”

Barr said the cadets’ anti-amer­i­can posts were “not enough” to con­sti­tute a vi­o­la­tion of law. There was no ev­i­dence they were af­fil­i­ated with ter­ror­ist ac­tiv­ity or a par­tic­u­lar group, he said, and U.S. at­tor­neys had in­de­pen­dently de­ter­mined the child porn did not war­rant charges. Jus­tice Depart­ment of­fi­cials said the most sig­nif­i­cant case in­volved a cadet who possessed more than 100 im­ages of child porn and had searched terms for child porn, ac­cord­ing to his browser his­tory — but even that fell be­low the nor­mal thresh­old for a case deemed wor­thy of prose­cu­tion by a U.S. at­tor­ney’s of­fice.

Barr stressed the im­por­tance of mil­i­tary part­ner­ships, such as the one that al­lowed the Saudi cadets to train in the United States, and said the Saudi gov­ern­ment had been co­op­er­a­tive. But he said more vet­ting of prospec­tive trainees was needed.

The Jus­tice Depart­ment an­nounce­ment ap­peared to set­tle many ques­tions sur­round­ing the Pen­sacola at­tack, while leav­ing one large is­sue un­re­solved — the po­ten­tial bat­tle over the killer’s phones.

The FBI’S top lawyer, Dana Boente, sent a let­ter to Ap­ple last week ask­ing for the com­pany’s help to open the two iphones.

For years, Ap­ple has re­sisted any ef­forts to al­ter the en­cryp­tion on its phones to make it pos­si­ble for the com­pany to give gov­ern­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tors ac­cess to the data on such phones, say­ing that do­ing so would weaken the se­cu­rity of all its cus­tomers’ de­vices.

“Even though the shooter is dead, the FBI, out of an abun­dance of cau­tion, has se­cured court autho­riza­tion to search the con­tents of the phones in or­der to ex­haust all leads in this high pri­or­ity na­tional se­cu­rity in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” Boente wrote to the com­pany.

“Un­for­tu­nately, FBI has been un­able to ac­cess the con­tents of the phones,” the let­ter said, even af­ter ask­ing pri­vate tech­nol­ogy ex­perts whether they could help agents crack them. “None of those rea­chouts has shown us a path for­ward.”

Asked Mon­day whether the FBI’S tech­ni­cal ex­perts on cell­phones had agreed with the de­ci­sion to send the let­ter press­ing Ap­ple to open the phones, Bowdich said he did not know.

An FBI spokesper­son later said the bureau’s “tech­ni­cal ex­perts — as well as those con­sulted out­side of the or­ga­ni­za­tion — have played an in­te­gral role in this in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The con­sen­sus was reached, af­ter all ef­forts to ac­cess the shooter’s phones had been un­suc­cess­ful, that the next step was to reach out to start a con­ver­sa­tion with Ap­ple.”

Ap­ple and other com­pa­nies have said en­cryp­tion on phones is an im­por­tant safe­guard pro­tect­ing mil­lions of con­sumers against hack­ers and other crim­i­nals.

The courts have yet to rule on whether com­pa­nies such as Ap­ple can be forced to change their busi­ness prac­tices to give law en­force­ment agents ac­cess to phones and other de­vices.


The Jus­tice Depart­ment’s Ali Kjer­gaard straight­ens pic­tures of two iphones said to be­long to Ahmed Mo­hammed al-sham­rani.

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