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Police chief says iPhone at center of FBI case could be useless to authorities

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Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Even if Apple loses its high-profile legal fight with the FBI, San Bernardino city law enforcement isn't expecting any fresh leads. In an interview with NPR's Morning Edition, San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said that he thinks the phone at the center of the litigation may not contain any valuable information, although he supports the FBI's efforts to compel Apple's help in obtaining the data inside. "I'll be honest with you, I think that there is a reasonably good chance that there is nothing of any value on the phone," Berguan said. "What we are hoping might be on the phone would be potential contacts that we would obviously want to talk to."

A number of observers have questioned the value of the data on the phone, including Marcy Wheeler at Slate. The phone in question was owned by Farook's workplace, and Farook had already destroyed another personal phone that is more likely to have been used in planning the attack. Existing iCloud backups pulled from the phone in the months before the attack have already been obtained, and no evidence has been made public linking the phone to any larger network of suspects.

Still, Burguan argued it's still important for officers to access the phone's data, citing the high value of any information that might be found on the phone. "The worst-case scenario is that maybe there was some information on there that would lead to a larger plot, a larger network," Berguan argues. "I think the probability is probably low, but it could be."