News & Politics

San Bernardino D.A.: Clue to Possible Third Gunman on Shooter's Phone

Really, Apple, stop the preening and help out your country here:

The San Bernardino, California, district attorney suspects that shooter Syed Rizwan Farook’siPhone could hold information about an unconfirmed third gunman in the December shooting spree, or maybe even what he calls a “cyber pathogen” set to harm the local infrastructure.

In an amicus brief filing Thursday, D.A. Mike Ramos wrote to a U.S. District Court in California, “At the time that the murders were being perpetrated at least two 911 calls to the San Bernardino Police Dispatch center reported the involvement of three perpetrators.”

“Although the reports of three individuals were not corroborated, and may ultimately be incorrect, the fact remains that the information contained solely on the seized iPhone could provide evidence to identify as of yet unknown co-conspirators who would be prosecuted for murder and attempted murder in San Bernardino County by the District Attorney,” the filing says.

At the very least, the deceased holy Muslim who took part in the murders of fourteen real Americans enjoys no rights to privacy as he consorts with his 72 raisins in paradise. But his phone is material evidence in a crime.

Last month ABC News reported that although only two shooters — Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik — have been confirmed as responsible for the deaths of 14 people in the Dec. 2 massacre, the FBIhasn’t ruled out the possibility of a third suspect. Some eyewitnesses, including Sally Abedlmageed, insisted there were three, telling ABC News in February, “I know what I saw.”

Maybe. As the Kennedy assassination continues to illustrate, eyewitness testimony is highly unreliable, especially in cases involving firearms. Which is why cops and the legal system vastly prefer physical evidence.

Other officials, however, are skeptical about the existence of a third gunman. Lt. Mike Madden, who was the first officer on the scene, said there was no evidence pointing to a third shooter, and a counterterrorism official involved in the investigation previously told ABC News that witnesses’ brains can play tricks on them in high-stress situations.

Taking another tack in his push to have the phone opened, Ramos also said in his filing, as first reported by Ars Technica, that the iPhone “may contain evidence that can only be found on the seized phone that it was used as a weapon to introduce a lying dormant cyber pathogen that endangers San Bernardino County’s infrastructure.” By using the unusual term “cyber pathogen,” Ramos is likely referring to malware that is more generally described as a computer “worm” or “virus.”

If it really wanted to, Apple could make the phone available; that it chooses not to do so says something about where Apple’s loyalties lie.