Washington: The Texas church massacre is providing a familiar frustration for law enforcement: FBI agents are unable to unlock the gunman’s encrypted cell phone to learn what evidence it might hold.
But while heart-wrenching details of the rampage that left 26 people dead might revive the debate over the balance of digital privacy rights and national security, it’s not likely to prompt change anytime soon.
Congress has not shown a strong appetite for legislation that would force technology companies to help the government break into encrypted phones and computers. And the fiery public debate surrounding the FBI’s legal fight with Apple Inc. has largely faded since federal authorities announced they were able to access a locked phone in a terror case without the help of the technology giant.
As a candidate, Donald Trump called on Americans to boycott Apple unless it helped the FBI hack into the phone, but he hasn’t been as vocal as president.
Still, the issue re-emerged Tuesday, when Christopher Combs, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s San Antonio division, said agents had been unable to get into the cell phone belonging to Devin Patrick Kelley, who slaughtered much of the congregation in the middle of a Sunday service.
“It highlights an issue you’ve all heard about before. With the advance of the technology and the phones and the encryption, law enforcement is increasingly not able to get into these phones,” Combs told reporters. He did not provide further details other than saying the device was being flown to an FBI lab for analysis. “We’re working very hard to get into that phone, and that will continue until we find an answer,” Combs added.