Trump Urges Apple to Unlock iPhone Linked to Florida Terrorist Shooting

President Trump wants Apple to "step up to the plate" and unlock two iPhones linked to a terrorist shooting in Florida, but the tech giant says data held on encrypted devices can't be accessed.

Apple Inc.  (AAPL) - Get Report shares drifted higher Wednesday after President Donald Trump criticized the tech giant for what he characterized as a refusal to help the Federal Bureau of Investigation's probe into the murder of three naval airmen in Florida last month.

The FBI wants Apple to unlock two iPhones it says was owned by Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, a Saudi national who shot and killed three people during a rampage on the U.S. Naval Air Station in Pensacola on December 6. Officials say Alshamrani watched videos of other mass shootings and accessed extremist content through his Apple devices. 

Attorney General William Barr called the shootings and act of terrorism motivated by 'jihadist ideology' earlier this week and said Apple has not provided any "substantial assistance" in the investigation. 

“A federal judge has authorized the Department of Justice to access the contents of the dead terrorist’s phones. Apple designed these phones and implemented their encryption," the DoJ said in a statement. "It’s a simple, 'front-door' request: Will Apple help us get into the shooter’s phones or not?”. 

Apple says that while it can hand over data from users that is stored on its iCloud system, it can't access encrypted data on an individual device. It also cautioned that building a system that would crate a 'back door' for such access would put users at risk to hacking from the very criminals and terrorists the government is attempting to thwart.  

"We reject the characterisation that Apple has not provided substantive assistance in the Pensacola investigation. Our responses to their many requests since the attack have been timely, thorough and are ongoing," Apple said in a statement. "We responded to each request promptly, often within hours, sharing information with FBI offices in Jacksonville, Pensacola and New York." 

"The queries resulted in many gigabytes of information that we turned over to investigators," the statement continued. "In every instance, we responded with all of the information that we had."  

Apple shares were marked 0.35% lower in early trading Wednesday to indicate an opening bell price of $313.85 each.

Trump's Tweet marks the second clash between the iPhone maker and the government over access to data held on its devices, Four years ago, the FBI asked Apple to unlock the phone of a terrorist involved in a mass shooting in San Bernadino, California, that killed 14 people and left a further 22 seriously injured.