Fact Check

FBI Spilled Water on San Bernardino Shooter's iPhone?

A satirical article posited that the Federal Bureau of Investigation spilled water on and ruined an iPhone used by the San Bernardino shooters.

Published Mar 30, 2016

After unlocking an iPhone belonging to one of the people involved in the San Bernardino shooting, the FBI ruined the device by spilling water on it.

On 29 March 2016, The New Yorker published a satirical article claiming that the FBI had ruined an iPhone used by the San Bernardino shooter by spilling water on it:

Moments after successfully unlocking the San Bernardino iPhone, the F.B.I. rendered the phone permanently useless by spilling a glass of water on it, an F.B.I. spokesman confirmed.

Calling the accident “one of the biggest embarrassments in F.B.I. history,” bureau spokesman Harland Dorrinson told reporters, “There’s no way to express how bad we feel about what happened to that phone.”

While it's true that the FBI recently unlocked the San Bernardino iPhone (a feat that was not without controversy) there is no truth to the claim that the device was ruined after water was spilled on it. This article is a piece of fiction from writer Andy Borowitz, a well-known satirist.

However, many people encountered the article on social media where the topic was presented without any indication that it was a work of satire:

Screenshot 2016-03-30 at 10.46.10 AM

On The New Yorker's web site, however, this article is accompanied by at least two "satire" tags:

Screenshot 2016-03-30 at 10.44.52 AM

Dan Evon is a former writer for Snopes.

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