San Bernardino Police Chief Says Shooter’s iPhone May Hold “Nothing of Any Value”

But that doesn’t mean the FBI agrees.

Chris Carlson/AP

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

The police chief of San Bernardino, California, said Friday that the iPhone at the heart of a massive civil liberties and security debate may not actually contain any critical information, despite the FBI’s insistence that the phone may unlock the secrets of how the San Bernarndino shooters carried out their attack.

I’ll be honest with you: I think that there is a reasonably good chance that there is nothing of any value on the phone,” Chief Jarrod Burguan said in an interview with NPR. The phone in question is an iPhone 5c used by Syed Farook, one of the two shooters who killed 14 people in a terrorist attack in the Southern California town last December.

A federal judge in Los Angeles ordered Apple last week to write new software that would help the FBI unlock the phone because the Bureau believes it may contain data critical to understanding how Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, planned the attack and with whom they communicated. The FBI was able to retrieve data from the phone that was backed up using Apple’s iCloud service, but Farook stopped using iCloud on October 19, six weeks before the attack itself. But Apple is seeking to throw out the order, arguing in a court filing on Thursday that complying would give the government “a dangerous power that Congress and the American people have withheld: the ability to force companies like Apple to undermine the basic security and privacy interests of hundreds of millions of individuals around the globe.”

While Burguan’s opinion will give those opposed to the court order some ammunition, BuzzFeed tech reporter Hamza Shaban pointed out that the FBI’s opinion is really what counts in this case:


Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend