The FBI has requested that Apple “unlock” an iPhone used by one of the perpetrators of the San Bernardino workplace shooting. Here, we’ll look at the details of the case and various factors that should affect which side you choose to support.



First, let’s look at the facts, courtesy of the Wikipedia article about the attack, unless otherwise noted.

The Attack

  • The suspects fled in this SUV, which was shot up by police, killing both suspects.

    The suspect’s vehicle involved in a shootout with the police, in the 2015 San Bernardino shooting.

    On December 2, 2015, 14 people were killed and 22 were seriously injured when  Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik opened fire on Syed’s coworkers. They were at a combined semi-annual departmental event and holiday party/luncheon at the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health. Syed was at the event but left midway through after posing for photos with coworkers.

  • An unidentified source stated that several coworkers appeared to recognize Syed’s voice and build.
  • The suspects left behind two poorly-constructed pipe bombs. They were likely intended to harm rescue workers but never detonated.
  • The suspects fled the scene of the shooting in an SUV. The police stopped the SUV and gunfire was exchanged. One of the perpetrators was killed attempting to leave the SUV. The other died inside the vehicle.

The Perpetrators

  • Syed Rizwan Farook was born in Chicago, IL in June of 1987. He was a US citizen, although his parents immigrated from Pakistan.

The iPhone

The suspects smashed their personal mobile phones, hard drives, and just about anything with digital memory. However, they were not entirely successful.[ABCFBI computer forensics analysts will attempt to reconstruct and extract any digital information they can, but it is expected to be painstaking work.

The iPhone 5C that is at the centre of this issue was not owned by the suspects. Instead, it was owned by the San Bernardino County.

Questions and Answers

Was this a terrorist attack? Yes and no. There seems to be little doubt that the perpetrators, although acting alone, were already radicalized. It was likely that they were going to perform a terrorist act sooner or later. As it turns out, they decided to direct their attack at Syed’s coworkers, which is a crime not typically associated with terrorism. Usually, terrorist attacks are aimed at random strangers that just happen to be in the vicinity of the shooting and/or bomb. Deciding the matter, however, was a December 6th prime-time address delivered from the US White House Oval Office by US President Barack Obama in which he defined the shooting as an act of terrorism.