Reuters

By Dan Levine
Technology | Mon Feb 22, 2016 – 11:24am EST

Some victims of the San Bernardino attack will file a legal brief in support of the U.S. government’s attempt to force Apple Inc to unlock the encrypted iPhone belonging to one of the shooters, a lawyer representing the victims said on Sunday.

Stephen Larson, a former federal judge who is now in private practice, told Reuters that the victims he represents have an interest in the information which goes beyond the Justice Department’s criminal investigation.

“They were targeted by terrorists, and they need to know why, how this could happen,” Larson said.

Larson said he was contacted a week ago by the Justice Department and local prosecutors about representing the victims, prior to the dispute becoming public. He said he will file an amicus brief in court by early March.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on the matter on Sunday.

Larson declined to say how many victims he represents. Fourteen people died and 22 others were wounded in the shooting attack by a married couple who were inspired by Islamic State militants and died in a gun battle with police.

Entry into the fray by victims gives the federal government a powerful ally in its fight against Apple, which has cast itself as trying to protect public privacy from overreach by the federal government.

An Apple spokesman declined to comment. In a letter to customers last week, Tim Cook, the company’s chief executive, said: “We mourn the loss of life and want justice for all those whose lives were affected,” saying that the company has “worked hard to support the government’s efforts to solve this horrible crime.”

Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey said in a letter released on Sunday night that the agency’s request wasn’t about setting legal precedent, but rather seeking justice for the victims and investigating other possible threats.

“Fourteen people were slaughtered and many more had their lives and bodies ruined. We owe them a thorough and professional investigation under law. That’s what this is,” Comey wrote.

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