What do they have in common? They want to be president and (seem to) think Apple should comply with the FBI.Getty Images
The now five candidates vying for the GOP presidential nomination discussed everything from immigration, health care, and the Middle East during their latest debate, sponsored by CNN/Telemundo and held in Houston on Thursday evening.
But what caught our attention was the candidates’ discourse about the Apple-FBI encryption legal fight.
CNN moderators Wolf Blitzer and Dana Bash actually initiated the topic.
Blitzer first mentioned how Apple responded to the FBI’s court order earlier in the day with a formal motion to vacate.
Bash then addressed the topic to Florida Senator Marco Rubio, referencing his defense of Apple last week during a GOP candidate town hall in South Carolina.
BASH: Senator Rubio, you say it’s complicated, and that, quote, “Apple isn’t necessarily wrong to refuse the court order.” Why shouldn’t investigators have everything at their disposal?
RUBIO: No, in fact what I have said is the only thing—the FBI made this very clear 48 hours ago—the only thing they are asking of Apple is that Apple allow them to use their own systems in the FBI to try to guess the password of the San Bernardino killer.
Apple initially came out saying, “We’re being ordered to create a back door to an encryption device.” That is not accurate.
The only thing they’re being asked to do, and the FBI made this very clear about 48 hours ago, is allow us to disable the self-destruct mode that’s in the Apple phone so that we can try to guess using our own systems what the password of this killer was.
And I think they should comply with that.
If that’s all they’re asking for, they are not asking for Apple to create a back door to encryption.
BASH: So just to be clear, you did say on CNN a couple of weeks ago this is a complicated issue; Apple is not necessarily wrong here.
RUBIO: Because at the time, Apple was portraying that the court order was to create a back door to an encryption device.
BASH: But just to be clear—just to be clear, if you are president, would you instruct your Justice Department to force Apple to comply or not?
RUBIO: To comply with an order that says that they have to allow the FBI the opportunity to try to guess the password?
That Apple phone didn’t even belong to the killer.
It belonged to the killer’s employee (sic) who have agreed to allow him to try to do this.
That is all they’re asking them to do is to disable the self-destruct mode or the auto-erase mode on one phone in the entire world.
But Apple doesn’t want to do it because they think it hurts their brand.
Bash and Blitzer soon directed the question of national security or personal privacy to a trio of other candidates in attendance—Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Ohio Governor John Kasich, and Neurosurgeon Dr.
Cruz pointed out Rubio’s potential hypocrisy, said Apple doesn’t need to place back doors in every phone, but concluded with “Apple doesn’t have a right to defy a valid court order in a terrorism investigation.” Carson simply took an anti-terror approach (“I think allowing terrorists to get away with things is bad for America”), while Kasich criticized President Obama for not bringing the two sides together for a meeting outside the court system.
Ultimately, four of the five GOP candidates have now said they side with the government’s position that Apple should assist the authorities in unlocking the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters.
And the fifth, Kasich, essentially said last night that the FBI should get what they need without explicitly choosing a side: “You lock the door and you say you’re not coming out until you reach an agreement that both gives the security people what they need and protects the rights of Americans.”
While he did not address the topic yesterday, current frontrunner Donald Trump seemingly became the first anti-Apple presidential candidate last week.
During a campaign event in South Carolina ahead of that state’s primary, Trump went so far as to call for an Apple boycott until the gadget maker complies with the government’s demands.
“First of all, Apple ought to give [authorities] the security to that phone,” he told the crowd on Friday, February 19. “What I think you ought to do is boycott Apple until they give that security number.
I just thought of that—boycott Apple… The phone is not even owned by this young thug that killed all these people.
The phone’s owned by the government.
It’s not even his phone, so we don’t even have to go that far.
But Tim Cook is looking to do a big number—probably to show how liberal he is.”
On the other side of the campaign trail, neither Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders nor former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has yet publicly sided one way or another.
At the Democratic candidate town hall in Nevada last week, Clinton called the situation a “difficult dilemma” and repeated arguments used by both Apple and the FBI.
And when moderator José Díaz-Balart asked Sanders directly whose side he was on, the candidate simply replied, “Both.”
The entire transcript from last night’s GOP debate is available via The Washington Post. And you can find all of Ars’ previous coverage of the Apple v.
FBI encryption saga here.