When the FBI asked the NSA, which has a history of breaking into networks and devices, earlier this year to break into the shooter’s phone, FBI director James Comey said his Fort Meade, MD-based colleagues were unsuccessful. Comey said that without help from Apple, federal agents aren’t ever getting into the terrorist’s iPhone.
The NSA was unable to crack the iPhone simply because of the lack of manpower with the required expertise. NSA deputy director Richard Ledgett said at a conference on Friday that the NSA has to prioritize its resources in a utilitarian way — in that it will focus its resources on cracking the popular devices among suspected criminals, rather than the more popular devices, like iPhones.
“We don’t do every phone, every variation of phone,” he said. “If we don’t have a bad guy who’s using it, we don’t do that.”
It was a little surprising a few weeks later when the FBI unexpectedly dropped its case against Apple a day before a court hearing, because “an outside party demonstrated to the FBI a possible method” for unlocking the phone.
Comey later said the FBI paid more than $1 million in a one-time fee for the hack. The fee was paid to a company that obviously did possess the required expertise.
You can read more in an article by Jenna McLaughlin in The Intercept at https://goo.gl/JdQW1H.