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Bill Gates Backs FBI Over Apple in San Bernardino iPhone Battle

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has thrown his weight behind the FBI's demand that Apple give officials access to the locked, encrypted iPhone of one of the San Bernardino attackers.

Technology companies should be forced to cooperate with law enforcement in terrorism investigations, Gates said, according to a Financial Times story posted late Monday.

"This is a specific case where the government is asking for access to information. They are not asking for some general thing, they are asking for a particular case," he said.

Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg Disagree in Apple-FBI Debate 1:52

Gates' decision sets him apart from other Silicon Valley top executives, such as Facebook Inc chief Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter Inc founder Jack Dorsey and Google head Sundar Pichai.

A federal judge last week ordered Apple to create new software and take others steps to retrieve data from the locked phone, used by Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the San Bernardino shooters, who was killed in a gun battle with police.

Apple on Monday urged the creation of a government panel on encryption, the latest salvo in a standoff over a locked iPhone linked to the San Bernardino shooting that has escalated into a public relations battle between the revered technology company and the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook also sent a letter to employees Monday morning, making clear the company's hardline stance refusing to make software to unlock the phone addresses broader issues, not just a single device linked to a grisly attack.

Related: Apple Not the Only Company Facing Feds on Tech Issues

"This case is about much more than a single phone or a single investigation," Cook said in the email to employees, seen by Reuters. "At stake is the data security of hundreds of millions of law-abiding people, and setting a dangerous precedent that threatens everyone's civil liberties."

What's the Holdup in the San Bernardino iPhone Battle? 0:55

But FBI Director James Comey, in an article published late Sunday on the national security legal blog Lawfare, asserted the case was not about setting a new legal precedent but rather about "victims and justice."

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