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AG Barr: Pensacola Shooting Was An Act Of Terrorism

Details Released About The Incident

U.S. Attorney General William Barr said Monday that the shooting incident at Naval Air Station Pensacola in which three sailors were killed was an act of terrorism on the part of Ahmed Mohammed al-Shamrani, a Royal Saudi Air Force member training at the base. The AG also called on Apple, Inc. to assist in unlocking al-Shamrani's phones as part of its ongoing investigation.

In his prepared remarks for the news conference, Barr (pictured) said that the evidence shows that the shooter was motivated by jihadist ideology. "During the course of the investigation, we learned that the shooter posted a message on social media on Sept. 11 of last year that said: “the countdown has begun.” Over Thanksgiving weekend, he visited the 9/11 Memorial in New York City. He also posted other anti-American, anti-Israeli, and jihadi messages on social media, and did so two hours before his attack at the naval base," Barr said.

Early reports indicated that the shooter arrived at the site, accompanied by other Saudi cadets, who took video of the attack as it unfolded. These reports turned out not to be accurate. The shooter arrived by himself. Other Saudi cadets happened to be in the area and, after the attack began, they took some videos of the resulting commotion. They fully cooperated in the investigation, as did the other Saudi cadets who were interviewed by the FBI at Pensacola and at additional bases across the country.

Barr said that The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia gave complete and total support for our counter-terrorism investigation, and ordered all Saudi trainees to fully cooperate. This assistance was critical to helping the FBI determine whether anyone assisted the shooter in the attack.

"While there was no evidence of assistance or pre-knowledge of the attack by other members of the Saudi military (or any other foreign nationals) who are training in the United States, we did learn of derogatory material possessed by 21 members of the Saudi military who are training here in the United State," Barr said.

Seventeen had social media containing some jihadi or anti-American content. However, there was no evidence of any affiliation or involvement with any terrorist activity or group. 15 individuals (including some of the 17 just mentioned) had had some kind of contact with child pornography. While one of these individuals had a significant number of such images, all the rest had one or two images, in most cases posted in a chat room by someone else or received over social media.

The relevant U.S. Attorneys offices independently reviewed each of the 21 cases involving derogatory information and determined that none of them would, in the normal course, result in federal prosecution.

However, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia determined that this material demonstrated conduct unbecoming an officer in the Saudi Royal Air Force and Royal Navy and the 21 cadets have been dis-enrolled from their training curriculum in the U.S. military and will be returning to Saudi Arabia.

According to Barr, the shooter possessed two Apple iPhones. Within one day of the shooting, the FBI sought and received court authorization based on probable cause to search both phones in an effort to run down all leads and figure out with whom the shooter was communicating.

During the gunfight with first responders, the shooter disengaged long enough to place one of the phones on the floor and shoot a single round into the device. It also appears the other phone was damaged.

"Our experts at the FBI crime lab were able to fix both damaged phones so they are operational," Barr said.

"However, both phones are engineered to make it virtually impossible to unlock them without the password. It is very important to know with whom and about what the shooter was communicating before he died.

"We have asked Apple for their help in unlocking the shooter’s iPhones. So far Apple has not given us any substantive assistance. This situation perfectly illustrates why it is critical that investigators be able to get access to digital evidence once they have obtained a court order based on probable cause. We call on Apple and other technology companies to help us find a solution so that we can better protect the lives of Americans and prevent future attacks."

(Source: Department of Justice)

FMI: www.justice.gov

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