Apple goes to Washington

As Apple ramps up its public-opinion campaign in its battle over the FBI’s attempt to hack into one of its iPhones, the Cupertino tech giant has dispatched its top legal executive to speak before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

And as part of that same ramp-up, Apple on Monday released a transcript of what Senior Vice President and General Counsel Bruce Sewell plans to tell the lawmakers.

The hearing before the House Judiciary Committee will be broken into sessions. The first will feature FBI Director James Comey, while the second will have committee members hearing from Sewell, along with Susan Landau, a professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and Cyrus  Vance Jr., the District Attorney for New York County.

Sewell with start off his remarks with a theme that Apple has consistently woven through prior public statements and interviews from CEO Tim Cook: the need for a rousing and public discourse on what Apple has called a debate over not just an iPhone that was used by one of the San Bernardino attackers but “the future,” along with a strong statement of support for the victims’ families:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It’s my pleasure to appear before you and the Committee today on behalf of Apple. We appreciate your invitation and the opportunity to be part of the discussion on this important issue which centers on the civil liberties at the foundation of our country.

I want to repeat something we have said since the beginning — that the victims and families of the San Bernardino attacks have our deepest sympathies and we strongly agree that justice should be served. Apple has no sympathy for terrorists.

As Cook has said on several occasions in the days since a federal judge ordered Apple to create a “backdoor” to the iPhone of attacker Syed Farook, Sewell will remind the committee members of all the cooperation Apple has already given investigators in the case:

We have the utmost respect for law enforcement and share their goal of creating a safer world. We have a team of dedicated professionals that are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year to assist law enforcement. When the FBI came to us in the immediate aftermath of the San Bernardino attacks, we gave all the information we had related to their investigation. And we went beyond that by making Apple engineers available to advise them on a number of additional investigative options.


And, again, as Apple has repeated over and over, its chief counsel is expected to lay out the company’s argument against opening up the iPhone, a move that Apple says will lead to a security breach for thousands of other iPhone users whose personal data will now be susceptible to governmental intrusion here and abroad as well as to hacking by common criminals.


As we have told them — and as we have told the American public — building that software tool would not affect just one iPhone. It would weaken the security for all of them. In fact, just last week Director Comey agreed that the FBI would likely use this precedent in other cases involving other phones. District Attorney Vance has also said he would absolutely plan to use this on over 175 phones. We can all agree this is not about access to just one iPhone. The FBI is asking Apple to weaken the security of our products. Hackers and cyber criminals could use this to wreak havoc on our privacy and personal safety. It would set a dangerous precedent for government intrusion on the privacy and safety of its citizens.

Hundreds of millions of law-abiding people trust Apple’s products with the most intimate details of their daily lives – photos, private conversations, health data, financial accounts, and information about the user’s location as well as the location of their friends and families. Some of you might have an iPhone in your pocket right now, and if you think about it, there’s probably more information stored on that iPhone than a thief could steal by breaking into your house. The only way we know to protect that data is through strong encryption.

As Sewell says in his opening remarks in a reference to the title of the hearing, which is Balancing Americans’ Security and Privacy,  “we believe we can, and we must, have both. Protecting our data with encryption and other methods preserves our privacy and it keeps people safe.” And he follows that up with three questions Apple would like to use to frame the public discussion about the FBI’s demand:

Do we want to put a limit on the technology that protects our data, and therefore our privacy and our safety, in the face of increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks? Should the FBI be allowed to stop Apple, or any company, from offering the American people the safest and most secure product it can make?

Should the FBI have the right to compel a company to produce a product it doesn’t already make, to the FBI’s exact specifications and for the FBI’s use?

Each of these questions, Sewell will tell the lawmakers, “deserves a healthy discussion, and any decision should be made after a thoughtful and honest consideration of the facts.


Most importantly, the decisions should be made by you and your colleagues as representatives of the people, rather than through a warrant request based on a 220 year- old-statute.

Photo from AFP/Getty Images


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