Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said he has dealt with criminal investigations stymied by encrypted iPhones, which is part of the reason he stands with the FBI and its ongoing battle with Apple.
“We have several prosecutions currently pending in Maricopa County, where because of encryption issues, prosecutions have been hampered, so it’s also a very real issue for us locally,” Montgomery told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes on Thursday.
Montgomery said that locked phones weren’t an issue until Apple released its current iOS in 2014 without an encryption key. Before then, law enforcement could obtain the information they wanted from encrypted iPhones during “constitutional investigations that follow due process.”
The county attorney said he sympathizes with citizens who believe their personal privacy trumps what the FBI is trying to do, but information on locked phones could be a matter of public safety.
“I’m not ignorant of the privacy issue, but I also don’t believe that we can use that to justify creating an environment in which criminals and criminal organizations act with impunity, and without the ability to hold them accountable,” he said.
In protest, Montgomery said Wednesday that his office will no longer provide iPhones to new employees and will not offer replacements or upgrades for existing employees. There are 564 smartphones deployed throughout the office, 366 of which are iPhones.
Apple has refused to unlock an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters per the request of the FBI, and wishes to take the matter to Congress for a decision.
“If Apple wants to become the official smartphone provider to ISIS and the Sinaloa Cartel, they can do so, but there is going to be a consequence,” Montgomery said Wednesday.
“Our country faces very serious threats and the position that Apple has taken certainly empowers those who would seek to harm or intend to harm or have harmed fellow citizens,” he added.