Sen. McCain Unhappy Apple Turned Down His Invitation To Be Encryption Hearing Punching Bag

from the Sad! dept

Last Friday's hearing on encryption was hosted by the Senate Committee on Armed Services and a visibly-irritated John McCain. McCain is no fan of encryption and, apparently, no fan of Apple. Kieren McCarthy of The Register reports (and delivers a stellar headline).

Opening the Committee on Armed Services' hearing on cybersecurity this morning, McCain went out of his way to note that Cook has declined the senator's invitation to give testimony alongside three opponents of end-to-end encryption on the company's iPhone.

"I must note for the record that these were not our only invited guests," McCain said.

"This committee extended an invitation to Apple CEO Tim Cook to offer his perspective on these important issues. He declined. I hope he will reconsider in the future so that this committee can benefit from the widest possible variety of perspectives."

"Widest possible variety." The other three "guests" included noted encryption opponent Cyrus Vance, former Bush Homeland Security Advisor Ken Wainstein, and -- producing the only measured take on the issue -- former NSA deputy director Chris Inglis. So, the deck was stacked, and Apple likely felt its testimony would be largely undercut by having to defend itself against baseless assertions and wild allegations, like it did at the last hearing it attended.

Back in April, the "intelligence commander" of the Indiana State Police, Charles Cohen, suggested Apple had provided iOS source code to the Chinese -- something it wasn't willing to hand over to the US government. So, while attempting to speak about the issue at hand, Apple's reps had to address idiotic statements like these instead.

That's where I was going to conclude my comments. But I think I owe it to this committee to add one additional thought. And I want to be very clear on this: We have not provided source code to the Chinese government. We did not have a key 19 months ago that we threw away. We have not announced that we are going to apply passcode encryption to the next generation iCloud. I just want to be very clear on that because we heard three allegations. Those allegations have no merit.

Thanks, but no thanks. McCain and others attending the hearing pretend the encryption problem can be solved by "working together." But Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance used part of his testimony to basically accuse Apple of offering encryption-by-default just to spite the government. The others testifying didn't go quite as far as Vance did in portraying the company as the enemy of justice, but there was really nothing in it for Apple. There's no "working together" going on here, not if the committee offers three invitations to people opposed to encryption (or at least far more sympathetic to law enforcement's requests) but the only outsider asked to attend is one that spent the running time of the last hearing listening to ignorant statements and wild allegations.

Not having Apple to kick around obviously bothered McCain.

As the hearing progressed and McCain was faced with the fact that all three panelists were effectively saying the same thing, he grew increasingly frustrated at the failure of Cook to serve as a legislative punching bag and repeatedly referred to his absence.

His committee "has subpoena power" McCain grumpily noted, implying that he would compel Cook to attend a future kangaroo court. And at the end of the hearing, McCain still wouldn't let the matter drop and complained that it was "unacceptable" that Cook had failed to attend.

That's what passes for "working together" in Washington. Threats of forced attendance at upcoming hearings where tech representatives can be sat on one side and angrily glared at when not attempting to defend themselves from speculative assertions and allegations.

Filed Under: encryption, going dark, john mccain
Companies: apple


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jul 2016 @ 1:00pm

    McCain et al should read this and contemplate how stupid people will view them in the future:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indiana_Pi_Bill

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