Society

Apple CEO Tim Cook: US Government Doesn't Work Anymore

| by Ray Brown
Apple CEO Tim CookApple CEO Tim Cook

Apple CEO Tim Cook said the U.S. government is "dysfunctional" after his tangle with the FBI over iPhone encryption.

"I think government in general has gotten quite dysfunctional in the U.S. and in some other countries as well," Cook told CNBC's Jim Cramer in a May 3 interview.

After terrorists killed 14 people during  mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, in December 2015, an iPhone belonging to one of the suspects was recovered by the FBI. But the agency was unable to unlock it, so it went to the phone's manufacturer, Apple, for help.

Apple declined because it wasn't just asked to unlock that one phone. Rather, the company was asked to build a “backdoor” through the iPhone's encryption software.

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"We have great respect for the professionals at the FBI, and we believe their intentions are good,” Cook wrote in a Feb. 16 statement about the case. “Up to this point, we have done everything that is both within our power and within the law to help them. But now the U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone.”

Cook continued: “Specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation. In the wrong hands, this software -- which does not exist today -- would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.”

In the CNBC interview, Cook further explained that he and his company were asked to violate their principles.

"That was a bridge we thought we shouldn't cross that was not good for America, and so we stood up,” Cook said. “I think when you are approached like this you have to stand up for what you believe in.”

FBI Director James Comey said this view of the matter was not in line with the government's perspective.

"We simply want the chance, with a search warrant, to try to guess the terrorist’s passcode without the phone essentially self-destructing and without it taking a decade to guess correctly. That’s it," Comey said in a statement on Feb. 21. "We don’t want to break anyone’s encryption or set a master key loose on the land. I hope thoughtful people will take the time to understand that. Maybe the phone holds the clue to finding more terrorists. Maybe it doesn’t. But we can’t look the survivors in the eye, or ourselves in the mirror, if we don’t follow this lead."

Sources: CNBC, Apple, FBI / Photo credit: iphonedigital/Flickr

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