Well, that settles things.
During the final Republican presidential primary debate before Super Tuesday, CNN anchors questioned each of the remaining five candidates on how he would deal with the recent legal conflict between Apple and the FBI over the iPhone of one of the deceased San Bernardino shooters. The FBI has requested that Apple create a new mobile operating system that would allow it to unlock the device, but Apple argues that this would set a “dangerous precedent” that could potentially undermine the security of all its customers’ devices. The unresolved dispute will be addressed at a federal hearing on March 22.
At previous town halls, both Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz offered lukewarm solutions, taking great pains to avoid picking a definite side on the issue of encryption for fear that they might alienate certain voters. But tonight, each candidate made it clear that he would favor national security over potentially compromising privacy for other iPhone users.
Rubio, who previously called the case “a very complicated issue,” took a clear stance, blaming his earlier reticence on what he characterized as a misleading media campaign by Apple.
“Apple initially came out saying we’re being ordered to create a backdoor to an encryption device,” Rubio said. “That is not accurate.”
Debate co-moderator Dana Bash followed up by asking, “If you are president, would you instruct your Justice Department to force Apple to comply or not?”
“To comply with an order that says that they have to allow the FBI the opportunity to try to guess the password? Absolutely,” Marco replied. “Apple doesn’t want to do it because they think it hurts their brand. Well, let me tell you, their brand is not superior to the national security of the United States of America.”
Cruz reiterated his answer from CNN’s town hall, this time backing it up with some of his legal knowledge, and doubling down on his belief that this particular case would not compromise encryption as a whole.
“Under the Fourth Amendment, a search and seizure is reasonable if it has judicial authorization and probable cause,” he said. “In this instance, the order is not to put a backdoor in everyone’s cellphone. I would agree with Apple on that broad policy question. But on the question of unlocking this cellphone of a terrorist, we should enforce the court order and find out everyone that terrorist at San Bernardino talked to on the phone, texted with, emailed.”
John Kasich, who has argued previously that discussing encryption in public is bad for national security, and that policies involving the issue should be worked out behind closed doors, took this question as an opportunity to attack President Obama.
Slideshow: iPhone security protests
“You know what the problem is?” he asked. “Where’s the president been? You sit down in a back room, and you sit down with the parties, and you get this worked out. You don’t litigate this on the front page of the New York Times, where everyone in the world is reading about their dirty laundry out here. The president of the United States should’ve convened a meeting with Apple, our security forces. You know what you do when you’re the president? 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.”
And though Ben Carson has already sided with the FBI with this matter, he had prepared a retort to Apple CEO Tim Cook, who said in an interview with NBC on Wednesday that compromising in this case would “be bad for America.”
“I think allowing terrorists to get away with things is bad for America,” he said. “I would expect Apple to comply with that court order. If they don’t comply with that, you’re encouraging chaos in our system.”
There you have it. FBI: 5 presidential candidates. Apple: 0.