Quoted: Tim Cook talks Apple vs. FBI and how it came to be

“I’m the FedEx guy. I’m taking your package and I’m delivering it. I just do it like this. My job isn’t to open it up, make a copy of it, put it over in my cabinet in case somebody later wants to come say, I’d like to see your messages. That’s not a role that I play. It’s not a role that I think I should play. And it’s certainly not a role I think you want me to play.”

Tim Cook, Apple CEO, in an interview with Time Magazine about his company’s refusal to heed a court’s order to help the FBI hack into the iPhone of San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook.

We’ve heard Cook’s rationale for his company’s stance before, first in a letter to customers posted on Apple’s website last month, and in subsequent statements by both him and other Apple executives, as well as legal filings by the company. Now, ahead of Tuesday’s scheduled court showdown over the issue, Cook talks in more detail about the battle, and how it came to be.

Specifically, he says Apple had cooperated with the government since a few days after the deadly massacre in San Bernardino in December. The company complied with a warrant for information that was on the phone’s iCloud backup, plus other metadata, Cook said. When the government came back later with a request for additional information because its order for the county — the owner of Farook’s iPhone — to change his iCloud password later made access even tougher, he said Apple sent engineers and was consulting with the government. But then, Cook said, the government decided to sue, and Apple found out about it from the press. When asked by Time whether he felt ambushed, Cook said:

No, I don’t feel ambushed. What I feel is that in a professional way, if I’m working with you for several months on things, if I have a relationship with you, and I decide one day I’m going to sue you, I’m a country boy at the end of the day. I’m going to pick up the phone and tell you I’m going to sue you.

There’s plenty more to chew on in the Time transcript — including Cook addressing Donald Trump’s call to boycott Apple over this — but here’s one last key excerpt, about what Cook thinks will happen. He talks about why he thinks the law the government is citing as its rationale to compel Apple to create technology to help unlock the iPhone is too old and open-ended to apply in this case, and says it’s up to Congress to pass new laws that would address this issue — which he says is vital to privacy and civil liberties.

And if at the outcome, if they conclude that they want to limit or ban encryption, or force a back door, then they clearly have the right to do that. Because they can pass a law. And if the President signs it, it becomes law.

Do I think that will happen? No. I think there’s too much evidence to suggest that that’s bad for national security. It means we’re really throwing out founding principles on the side of the road. So I think there’s so many things to suggest that they wouldn’t do that. That’s not something I lose sleep over. I’m very optimistic, I have got to be, that in a debate, a public debate, all of these things will rise up and you’ll see sanity take over.


Photo: Apple CEO Tim Cook. (Getty Images)


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  • wallynm

    In the current political climate no such legislation has a chance. In today’s climate there would little if any chance that The Constitution or Declaration of Independence could be agreed to much less voted on and passed.

  • “I’m the FedEx guy. I’m taking your package and I’m delivering it. I just do it like this. My job isn’t to open it up, make a copy of it, put it over in my cabinet in case….”

    He’s lying as usual. FedEx doesn’t merely accept any old package and deliver it to whomever regardless of content. If FedEx has any suspicions about a package or some law agency requests it be inspected, it will be inspected.

  • I think Mr. Cook speaks so match positively. It will really be a national security problem. Donald Trump always a betrayer of regular system so he can said to boycott Apple. This is a funny word. Cook obviously honor country law so he can fight for his business always.

  • Cook’s analogies are very relatable, which is a big win for Internet users who may not understand the technology or legal precedent facing Apple. While no one in this debate wants to protect terrorists, and Apple has complied with many requests the FBI has made, it is important to stay focused on the bigger picture – protecting the rights of individuals. The way Tim Cook explains the dilemma, though it is not exactly the same scenario, will hopefully encourage more than just government officials and big brands to weigh in with their opinions and be heard in a public forum. Judging from the comments we’ve seen on this article and others covering this issue, it looks like the effort is succeeding.

    • Grendle Jones

      Your basically saying, and Im overjoyed to hear from a liberal, that the Sandy Hook kids lives dont matter, as long as gun owners rights are not infringed.

  • Dave

    Cook’s explanation is hurt by his obvious concern of being divisive. As a result he is only able to provide incomplete truths thus rendering his arguments somewhat hollow. Sometimes the truth may be unpopular but remaining silent leads to a delusional society continuing the cycle of ignorance and abuse. The government is absolutely wrong on this one. They know it, Apple knows it, all of Silicon Valley knows it. The only one who doesn’t is the uninformed masses who lack the educational framework to be able to put this situation into context. A bully that steals another kid’s lunch money knows what he is doing is wrong but might justify it to himself (he’s hungry, other kid’s a loser & rich, he’s bigger, etc) and unless someone points out his problematic behavior he will continue to down this immoral path continuously pushing boundaries all because there was no push back. Like the bully, the government will scream and yell if denied but in the end the government, this country, and its citizens will all benefit from it.