Apple Inc and other technology companies should cooperate with U.S. investigators, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday as law enforcement officials continued probing last month's fatal shooting at a U.S. naval base in Florida.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump lashed out at Apple in a tweet for refusing to unlock phones in criminal investigations while the company benefited from the federal government's help on trade issues.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is seeking to unlock two iPhones involved in the case regarding the shooting of three Americans by a Saudi Air Force officer at the U.S. Naval Station in Pensacola, Florida. Attorney General William Barr this week called on Apple to help.
Their request has renewed attention to privacy issues in the digital age, with Apple and its rivals arguing strong encryption protects users while law enforcement officials counter it allows criminals to evade justice.
"I understand the president's view, and it is absolutely critical for our technology companies to cooperate with law enforcement," Mnuchin told CNBC in an interview.
Mnuchin later told reporters at the White House that he had not discussed the issue with Apple and did not know the specifics at hand. "I know Apple has cooperated in the past on law enforcement issues, and I expect they would continue ... to cooperate."
Apple has said that it has helped investigators in the Pensacola case by providing other data, but that it cannot access encrypted data stored on the actual devices without building a so-called "back door."
Source: Reuters 15 January, Washington
Reporting: Susan Heavey & Andrea Shalal