The remaining five GOP presidential candidates participated in a debate hosted by CNN and Telemundo Thursday night, and they were questioned on their positions regarding the current conflict between Apple and the FBI.
Apple CEO Tim Cook brought the issue to light last week when he released a letter to Apple customers notifying them that the FBI was ordering Apple to “build a backdoor” into the iPhone, in order to retrieve information from the iPhone used by one of the suspects in the San Bernardino shooting.
While the FBI claimed the “backdoor” would only be used on the one iPhone in question, Cook brought several concerns, noting that the FBI’s request “has implications far beyond the legal case at hand” due to the fact that once “a way to bypass the code is revealed, the encryption can be defeated by anyone with that knowledge.”
CNN host Wolf Blitzer brought up the topic during the debate, claiming that the FBI “wants Apple to unlock the phone used by that San Bernardino terrorist to prevent future attacks,” but that Apple has refused because “it would compromise the security of all of its customers.”
Dana Bash, CNN’s chief political correspondent turned to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, noting that he initially said, “Apple isn’t necessarily wrong to refuse the court order.”
Rubio insisted that because the FBI made it “very clear” that the “only thing they are asking of Apple is that Apple allow them to use their own systems in the FBI to try to guess the password of the San Bernardino killer,” his position has changed, and he is now in favor of the FBI’s request.
“Apple initially came out saying, ‘We’re being ordered to create a back door to an encryption device.’ That is not accurate. The only thing they’re being asked to do, and the FBI made this very clear about 48 hours ago, is allow us to disable the self- destruct mode that’s in the Apple phone so that we can try to guess using our own systems what the password of this killer was. And I think they should comply with that.”
Bash then turned to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, and she asked him if he agrees with Cook who said that creating a backdoor for the iPhone “would be bad for America.”
Cruz cited the same points as Rubio, claiming that the FBI is not looking for the “backdoor” Cook mentioned, but is instead looking into the phone of a single terrorist, and because of that he believes, “Apple doesn’t have a right to defy a valid court order in a terrorism investigation.”
“Apple should be forced to comply with this court order. Why? Because under the Fourth Amendment, a search and seizure is reasonable if it has judicial authorization and probable cause. In this instance, the order is not to put a back door in everyone’s cell phone. If that was the order, that order would be problematic because it would compromise security and safety for everyone.”
When asked the same question, neurosurgeon Ben Carson gave a similar response, claiming that he expects “Apple to comply with the court order,” and if the company doesn’t, he believes it would encourage “chaos in our system.”
“I think allowing terrorists to get away with things is bad for America. We have a Constitution. We have a Fourth Amendment. It guards us against illegal and unreasonable search and seizure. But we have mechanisms in place with the judicial system that will allow us to gain material that is necessary to benefit the nation as a whole or the community as a whole. And that’s why we have FISA courts and things of that nature.”
Ohio Gov. John Kasich asked to add his input on the topic, and he said he blames the public fight between Apple and the FBI on the Obama administration, claiming that if he were president, they would be solving problems “instead of fighting on the front page of the newspaper.”
“The president of the United States should be convening a meeting, should have convened a meeting with Apple and our security forces. And then 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.”
While business mogul Donald Trump was not asked about the issue during Thursday’s debate, he made his position clear last week during a campaign rally when he said Americans should boycott Apple until the company agrees to “give that information” to the FBI.
“Apple ought to give the security for that phone,” Trump said. “What I think you ought to do is boycott Apple until such a time as they give that security number. How do you like that? I just thought of it. Boycott Apple.”