Apple CEO Tim Cook, Google execs hit with veiled threat from Sen. John McCain

Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google executives may be able to hide their customers’ data — for now — but they can’t hide from the U.S. Senate.

That was the implication from Sen. John McCain, who suggested Thursday that Cook and executives from Apple and Google could be dragged before the Senate Armed Services Committee by subpoena, to face questioning over encryption of newer smartphone systems, according to U.S. Naval Institute News.

Cook had been invited to attend the Thursday hearing, but snubbed the committee, the news site reported. “This is unacceptable,” McCain reportedly said, after warning that the committee “has subpoena power.” McCain’s warning applied to executives from Apple and Google, the Naval Institute News reported.

Encryption of mobile phone systems became a flashpoint between the U.S. government and the tech industry, after Apple refused to design a backdoor into an encrypted iPhone used by one of the shooters in the San Bernardino terror attack.

President Barack Obama said at the South By Southwest conference in March that an “absolutist stance” on encryption was wrong.

“The question we now have to ask is if technologically it is possible to make an impenetrable device or system where the encryption is so strong there’s no key, there’s no door at all, then how do we apprehend the child pornographer? How do we disrupt a terrorist plot?” Obama said.

The president’s comments followed a statement issued by Apple’s Cook the month before. “People use (smartphones) to store an incredible amount of personal information, from our private conversations to our photos, our music, our notes, our calendars and contacts, our financial information and health data, even where we have been and where we are going,” Cook said.

“All that information needs to be protected from hackers and criminals who want to access it, steal it, and use it without our knowledge or permission. Compromising the security of our personal information can ultimately put our personal safety at risk.”


Photo: Apple CEO Tim Cook talks about smartphone privacy issues related to the company’s ongoing conflict with the FBI at the start of a product launch event Monday morning, March 21, 2016, at Apple headquarters in Cupertino. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)


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  • Arny.Plumb

    Well you do NOT do it by violating the 4th and 5th Amendments. If “a government” wants that authority they had better make an Amendment to the Constitution to allow it. I would rather live with the risk of a terrorist attack and personal privacy for all, than to have my children grow up at risk of being culled by a hostile government because of their thoughts and private communications.

  • John NYC

    Grandstanding to prop up a losing reelection campaign much?

  • DaveN

    So Republicans are against guberment intrusion until it comes to your bedroom and your phone conversations. Sweet!

    • Justiceforall2

      When did O’Bummer become a Republican? Not sure what McCain believes from this poorly written story hacked together from a little info probably plagiarized off of another news service.

      Anyway, Apple tracks everything we do with our iPhone’s, iPad and Macs anyway… Google the same. They want their cake and eat it too.

      • Dingbats

        Apple and Google do analytics so that the devices can make your life easier, not to extort money or persecute you for some other gains….

    • Propaganda. Republicans or conservatives could care less about others bedroom activity. Objecting to a man going to a public restroom with your young daughter or wife isn’t close to being the same thing though your ilk cant or refuses to understand and opts instead for gross inaccurate generalizations. The modern Democrat party however want to intrude with the objective of control most aspect of your life from your healthcare to criminalizing disagreement.

  • Dingbats

    Cheeky so and so is not acting in the wider public interest at all. Does he sound like someone acting as a public servant? Using the argument that snooping is not working, so we need more snooping, is an argument that has no logic. Protecting ordinary people’s privacy from criminals and yes even from non hack proof government agencies is just the safer standpoint.

  • Get the white-haired, sabre-rattling, viarga-chewing old men OUT of our bedrooms and away from our phones.

  • victor yao

    These mega CEOs have been overpaid and believe that are holier than God. Most of them are so presumptuous even though none of them has been able to inovatively create a single product like their founders. They are just chewing the fat left by their founders.

    • Dingbats

      And so that means these fat cats should do as their told on hand over the keys to your life then ?

      • victor yao

        No, I just say they should be less presumptuous and must examine and weigh all social ramifications of their actions to balance against our complex social reality. While I am a proponent of privacy but I also see the need to judicially combat/safeguard against criminal elements that threaten our way of life, people lives and our government.

        • Dingbats

          But the fat cats did weigh it all up and concluded encryption was the best policy. If government want access to your phone data they can just open your phone, this was always the case and indeed they eventually demonstrated it. The whole thing about wanting Apple to make a pass key was to enable agencies to invade your privacy without warrant, this being their agenda all along and dressed up under the guise of national security. It’s like the difference between the police bashing down your door (with a warrant and justifiable cause) or you just leaving all your doors unlocked so any criminal element can come in and have a snoop as they please.

          • victor yao

            Yes, you are right. A check and balance must be instituted to safeguard our privacy. I feel Cook is doing his best to safeguard our privacy without any compromise. But can we also put in, or technologically built in the check and balance necessary to combat the criminal elements associated with smartphone’e encryption? What I fault Cook is that he just snubbed the committee without even looking at or addressing the technological and legal aspects of dealing with criminal element that the government wants to look into.

          • Dingbats

            I think you will find Apple looked very hard at this issue. Having taken a position it’s CEO’s job to have the stones to back the position.

            Having a way in is like leaving your keys under the mat, eventually someone will find and exploit the vulnerability.

            What I take issue with is the open threats made towards Mr Cook that they should try and prosecute him personally, even though so far he is still in the legal right.

          • victor yao

            Look at Axixic’s comments posted above. What would happen if the phone is designed and built with encryption that cannot be opened or its data accessed? This means criminal elements using the phone are safely protected.

          • Dingbats

            Yes but Apple et al did not build such a device ! The authorities agenda “lies” elsewhere…

          • Ben M

            As is every US citizen that uses a smart phone.

            It amazes me that people do not understand how encryption is supposed to work. The entire premise is to protect your personal information. If you program the ability to access encrypted data into the phone then your data is no longer protected because if there is a “back door” for law enforcement and the government that “back door” can be exploited by hackers and identity thieves.

            As far as I am concerned, the protection of 300 million Americans data outweighs the need or desire of law enforcement to access a 1000 or even 10000 criminal phones with or without a warrant.

        • Axixic

          All they need to do is read the Constitution and tell Congress to get a search warrant like any government agent must do. If you don’t respect the Constitution, that’s great, but the rest of us do respect it and demand that the government obey it.

          • victor yao

            I wholeheartedly agree with you. The smartphone is too powerful of a tool in the hands of criminals whose privacy must not be protected.

          • Axixic

            Suspecting someone is a criminal is not enough to get a warrant.

            Criminals are not leaving all the proof of their crimes on smart phones.

            Everyone has a right to privacy and to not be subjected to unreasonable searches.

            Why don’t you move to Iran where you will be happier without the burden of rights?

    • John Kelly

      Yo yao, Google CEOs are the founders. Suggest you engage brain before posting.
      EZ John

      • victor yao

        Ya ya John, how many Google founders or CEOs there are past and presents? I don’t seem to be able to keep track. I know a retired one who bought the Clipper. There must be more ya? There is not one luminary founder like Job. Is that what you are saying.? You are so fxxg smart.

        • Ben M

          Actually, Ballmer is the one who bought the Clippers and he is an ex-Microsoft CEO and was not an original founder. The two founders of Google are still there at the top of the company. Microsoft and Apple founders have all retired/left or died.

  • LasVegasScott

    The more control the government gets over our lives, the less control we have over our lives.

    • Exactly and some people think it’s a good idea to give them control over their healthcare. It’s not health it’s about control.

  • Byron Barnett

    Interesting how the politicians want to say that it is wrong for American people to have encrypted devices and every one of their devices are encrypted. Wonder what they would do if the American people could take their devices and snoop through it.

    • Dingbats

      They would not be happy as we could see all their lies.

      Enforcing breakable encryption is also not feasible, there will always be an offshore app vendor willing to write new encryption, there’s an app for that.

  • Tony

    a phone should be used for a phone, that’s it, put your other stuff somewhere else and you have nothing to worry about with the freaking phones

    • Axixic

      Does that mean it is OK to take a peep at your other hiding places? Your property is your property. If you have no respect for the Constitution, great, but the rest of us expect search warrants to look at anything we have.

  • kevinish

    So, the technologically inept US Government wants to dictate to technology vendors on how to build a backdoor into the OS they can’t crack on their own…for our safety?

    Makes sense…in DC.

  • Axixic

    Tell Crash McCain to take a hike.

  • Dingbats

    These old foggy politicians do even understand this technology to be able to dictate how it should be. I would be surpraised if this old fuddy duddy has figured out how to work his video recorder yet 😉

  • Kids here’s a lesson in ulterior political motives: Obama says ‘how do we disrupt a terrorist plot’ ? Well using the tools already available is a good start. FBI can’t read facebook and Twitter public posts of budding jihadists at your behest so as not be ‘Islamophobic’. Thus you have SanBernadino and Orlando. Nor do you release those previously held in Guantanamo who’ve sworn to continue jihad. You might also not shackling the FBI, NYPD and Intel agencies with PC to the point they are going public. You might allow them to conduct surveillance of mosques and individuals with known terror ties. And you might actually identify the enemy. Sure, you want access to people’s phones because you’re concerned about terror. Not that you have gone after political opponents or documentary makers or anything. We trust you.

  • bearass

    I will not abdicate my freedoms and privacy for safety or security or anything!

  • 1hardtimes1

    McCain may have subpoena power but the people have the constitution and the right to take the 5th. Time to retire.

  • Other than being ever-vigilant for an opportunity to grandstand, why is the Armed Services Committee sticking its nose into encryption of civilian devices? I would be amazed if McCain had the faintest understanding of the actual issues involved.

  • 1hardtimes1

    Are republicans thru yet? They should be.

  • TJ

    And the Republicans hate a large and intrusive government, right?

    • socialismisevil✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

      Obama is the leader of the country and he called for the intrusion and in fact broadened the NSA

      McCain is worthless

    • Ben M

      McCain is a RINO plain and simple. He runs as a republican because Arizona is a republican state.

      Used to be true about the Republican party but now they are just as bad as the Democrats about increased government spending. Except of course for the tea party portion of the party…they still believe in less government but are outnumbered by the RINOs in congress.

  • Tim O

    this is the main reason to vote this douche out of office. vote Kelli Ward to replace him, she wouldn’t do this

  • socialismisevil✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    Sounds like Obammer was the one making the threats and Megans dad followed up with it

  • This Senator of yours needs to know that the People’s Republic of California is not a US State. Its culture doesn’t allow it to be a state.

    Subpoena power has no bearing there.

    Not even the IRS could subpoena Facebook executives when the IRS had questions about value to US Facebook “assets”. Then, Facebook sold/transferred them to a new Facebook company which is run and managed by Facebook Executives; based in Ireland.

    Additionally, Facebook’s Ireland offices entered into an agreement to pay for development work in the US.

    Basically, the way the IRS complaint reads is that Facebook is not only an Irish company now, but everyone who works in the US is a subcontractor. This was a very strange series of events, for business that occurs on US Soil.

    Generally in the past, companies who want their product to succeed will unionize their workforce in any country. They do this full-knowing that their product has value to the economy of the country they’re located. However, when companies HQs are based in ireland, a shift of management occurs. Companies become a one-trick pony that facilitates a culture surrounding the dot-com “Bubble” era. Management is ultimately setup so it absolves itself from having to listen to customers or employees about product improvement. Business Operational decisions are made where the purse or bank account is located.

  • Beardog1

    Ignorant, naive, wrong-headed politicians really need to spend more time with their constituents to find that virtually NONE of them agree with their intrusive threats.


    I think we need a backdoor to politician’s phones so we know who is paying them off.

  • Kurt Kruse

    Ah John we the people must do as you say? But you and your cohorts pass laws that apply only to you.Pass laws that provide special funding for special Health Care only for you guys. Pass special funding and retirement packages only for you. My prayer is that the people of Arizona finally wake up and throw you out of office, you done more than your share of stupid.

  • Chris

    Do you think Obummer is going to piss off the hand that feeds his donation pot. Leadership at its worst.

  • LJ Mercado

    Reading these comments, Progressives over look their dear leader leading the charge while blasting MCCain. So if Obama wants it done, it’s OK HuffandPost mouth breathers?

    • Bruce Baggett

      You need a gun to protect you from your government. You don’t want them monitoring you, but you request they monitor your friends, family, and neighbours.

  • JoeCommentor

    the fcc licenses the phones. Let them threaten to not license them in the U.S., they’ll roll under on that one…

    • bob roll

      thanks for such a stupid comment…. the telecom industry props this ountry up…that is an empty threat… and a useless thought….

      • JoeCommentor

        then keep your treasonous, murderous plots hidden and surprise us…

    • Petey

      You should change your name to JoeHatesFreedomAndTheBillOfRights.

      • JoeCommentor

        will you change to ISupportJihad?

  • Mere Marlo

    I think it may be time for McCain to hang it up. Thought he was on the side of the people. Treating their private security is not FOR the people. Don’t be a dumb dem McCain.

  • Captain Yossarian

    I thank the gods every day that this senile old man picked the Wicked Witch of Wasilla as his running mate when he ran for President. There’s no telling how much more damage he could have done to this country if elected to that position. The wounds inflicted by the winner of that race are mild in comparison.

  • Jim Kener

    McCain and others need to read the Constitution I don’t agree with Apples stance but they don’t have to do as the government asks unless they have to under a specific law. McCain and the others are acting like one of those mid east dictators.

  • EllaFino

    Well it wasn’t impenetrable since they were able to crack the encryption without Apple’s assistance. John McCain is just trying to boost his sagging reelection chances.

  • TheSlamma

    This is why I use offshore encrypted email and offshore no knowledge data storage also. This government is becoming their own entity separate from its people.

  • dallasareaopinion

    And John McCain is nominated for Big Brother of the year award 2016

    • Ben M

      One can only hope he is defeated in Arizona this year.

  • Steve

    Anyone remember when Americans had the right to privacy?

    • Petey

      Yes, before George W Bush was appointed president despite losing the general election.
      John Mc Cain was a big supporter of allowing the government to spy on ordinary Americans and hasn’t changed a bit.

    • alrui

      Yeah, it was before our own government colluded to take down the trade towers so they could instill “homeland security” & all that came with it!

  • Bruce Baggett

    How many companies hand confidential client information over to the government? A company doesn’t really have any choice but to fight for their clients in court.

    Yet these same people who think the government should have free access to their neighbours’ phone records demand the right to carry guns to protect them from a totalitarian government.

    • Ben M

      I think you are a little confused. This is not a partisan issue. There are BOTH Democrats and Republicans in government who want back door access to phone and computer information. I believe it was Feinstein (D) and Burr (R) who proposed a bill, immediately after Apple refused to decrypt the phone, that would require software companies to decrypt customer data at courts request. Luckily it did not even make it to the Senate floor. Even Obama came out against the bill which surprised the hell out of me. Putting this on Republicans only is bullshit because there are representatives on both sides pushing for this. It also goes to show that our representatives are not very tech savvy if they think they can just demand decryption and it will happen. The whole point of encryption is so that NO ONE except the user has access to the data. Put a back door in for the government and you many as well not have any encryption at all because it will be exploited by hackers.

      • Bruce Baggett

        Did I mention political persuasion?

        • Ben M

          Not specifically maybe but it was implied by your “Yet these same people who think the government should have free access to their neighbours’ phone records demand the right to carry guns to protect them from a totalitarian government.”

          Seeing as it is mostly Democrats that want to implement more gun control and Republicans that don’t that sentence implies it is mostly Republicans wanting access to private information.

          So yes you did.

      • Feinstein and Burr are what you should call an “American Hero” like GI-Joe.

        The order of a US Court to compel should open a phone and its data similar to that of a book taken from the seat of a car.

        No one cares if you smoke weed anymore unless your driving cross-country with a California, Washington State, or Colorado license plate.

        Illinois State Patrol, where Obama is from, I’m told is the worst.

        • Ben M

          Obviously you, along with Feinstein and Burr do not understand what encryption actually means. If the software developer can bypass the encryption because they put a “back door” in the software then so can any of a number of hackers. If they write the program to allow access to the data on an encrypted phone or computer then there is zero benefit or reason to have encryption in the first place because the “back door” can be exploited by third parties. We may as well go back to sending everything in plain text.

  • Holy Davina

    Examples of Medications for Paranoia
    aripiprazole, Abilify.
    chlorpromazine – oral, Thorazine.
    chlorpromazine-injection, Thorazine.
    clozapine (Clozaril, Fazacio ODT, Versacloz)
    haloperidol, Haldol.
    olanzapine, Zyprexa, Zydis, Zyprexa Relprevv.
    quetiapine, Seroquel, Seroquel XR.

  • donzoab

    john mccain is tired and should retire. He has repeatedly embarrassed himself over the last few years and is no longer relevant. Time to retire and move on.

  • alrui

    SCREW McShame! The man is a walking disatster area and loser! RETIRE NOW YOU OLD FART!

  • lithium451

    You kids get off my lawn! I’m a Senator damn it!

  • Ben M

    It amazes me that people do not understand how encryption is supposed to work. The sole purpose of encryption is to protect your data and personal information from prying eyes. You cannot do that If you program the ability to access encrypted data into the phone or make the encryption “breakable”. Your data is no longer protected if there is “back door” access for law enforcement or the government because that “back door” can be exploited by hackers and identity thieves.