Husband of San Bernardino survivor says shooter's iPhone unlikely to contain valuable information, wife also issued iPhone
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In an amicus brief filed with a California court on Monday, Salihin Kondoker, the husband of San Bernardino terror attack survivor Anies Kondoker, believes it unlikely that an iPhone issued to shooter Syed Rizwan Farook contains useful information.
Kondoker said his wife, who like Farook worked for the San Bernardino County Health Department, did not use her work-issued iPhone for private correspondence, suggesting the terrorist operated in the same manner.
An iPhone 5c owned by the county, but used by Farook, is at the center of a contentious court battle between the FBI and Apple. Law enforcement officials sought, and were subsequently granted, an order compelling Apple's assistance in efforts to unlock Farook's iPhone 5c, arguing there could be actionable intelligence to be gleaned from the device.
"In my opinion it is unlikely there is any valuable information on this phone," Sahilin writes. "This was a work phone. My wife also had an iPhone issued by the County and she did not use it for any personal communication. San Bernardino is one of the largest Counties in the country. They can track the phone on GPS in case they needed to determine where people were. Second, both the iCloud account and carrier account were controlled by the county so they could track any communications. This was common knowledge among my wife and other employees."
While speculative hearsay at best, the letter in support of Apple's case lends weight to assertions lobbed by tech companies and privacy advocates who say the debate holds implications far beyond a single iPhone. At its worst, a decision to grant government authority to compel will lead to an insidious but absolute erosion of basic civil liberties, specifically as they apply to consumer protections against unwarranted surveillance.
"When I first learned Apple was opposing the order I was frustrated that it would be yet another roadblock. But as I read more about their case, I have come to understand their fight is for something much bigger than one phone," Sahilin said, adding that Apple should stand firm in its decision.
Kondoker's letter comes days after lawyer Stephen Larson announced intent to file a pro-government amicus brief on behalf of the San Bernardino victims and their families. Larson said the Justice Department and local prosecutors contacted him about representing the victims a week prior to Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym's court order compelling Apple's compliance in the investigation.
Today's amicus filing is the latest development in a polarizing debate that quickly gained attention from tech moguls, high-ranking government officials, rights groups and more. Most recently, the government was hit with a setback in its case when a New York federal judge denied an FBI motion to compel Apple's aid in a similar case involving a drug trafficker's iPhone.