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


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 18 Jul 2016 @ 8:43am

    Completely 'voluntary' of course

    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.

    Yeah, he's just annoyed that Cook managed to spot the glaringly obvious trap and had the sheer gall not to step into it.

    It was never his intention to have an equal back and forth discussion, this was all about raking Apple and other companies who use encryption over the coals as punishment for daring to stand up for security and safety of their customers and their products, rather than caving into government scaremongering.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    SteveMB (profile), 18 Jul 2016 @ 9:57am

    Old Man Yells At The Cloud.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    mcinsand, 18 Jul 2016 @ 10:00am

    undermining McCain's efforts to undermine security

    While I'm no fan of Apple, I am glad to see that they are not assisting in the government's efforts to undermine security by weakening privacy. Encryption makes the average citizen less of a target those that would misuse private information. Anyone that believes that backdoors can be implemented without putting security at risk is not qualified for the discussion. It's that simple.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 18 Jul 2016 @ 10:07am

      "Just because I said you were smart doesn't mean I care to listen to what you tell me."

      Anyone that believes that backdoors can be implemented without putting security at risk is not qualified for the discussion.

      Which is where the sleazy tactic of 'Nerd harder' comes into play, where they pretend humility by saying that they don't understand themselves how it could or would be done, but insist that those smart tech people could absolutely do it if they cared to.

      You know, those same tech people that they completely ignore when they tell idiots that there is not and never will be such a thing as 'secure broken encryption'.

      It makes for an interesting mix of false praise and open contempt.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Leaking ¦, 18 Jul 2016 @ 10:05am

    If McCain is so opposed to encryption...

    ...why his phone is encrypted? Seriously, wanted just yesterday to get into it in order to dl all of his text messages and phone call log, but couldn't because the thing was encrypted.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ArkieGuy (profile), 18 Jul 2016 @ 10:12am

    Tim Cook? Really?

    Why would you "invite" the CEO of a fortune 50 company to attend a meeting to speak about encryption? If you really want to know, wouldn't you invite security experts or maybe send a message to Apple asking them to provide an expert?

    Obviously, the goal was to make a show of calling Cook to the principals office for a stern talking to. Kudos to him for declining.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Jul 2016 @ 11:02am

      Re: Tim Cook? Really?

      Why would you "invite" the CEO of a fortune 50 company to attend a meeting to speak about encryption?
      Because
      1) You do not talk to plebs.
      2). They are the people you have to convince to give the orders.
      The meeting had nothing to do with practicalities, and everything to do with a powerful person getting their own way..

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 19 Jul 2016 @ 7:26am

      Re: Tim Cook? Really?

      Elitists tend to think only other elitists have anything of value to say.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 19 Jul 2016 @ 3:38pm

        Re: Re: Tim Cook? Really?

        Except in this case, as I don't imagine McCain would have cared one bit about anything Cook might have said that wasn't "You're right, I'm wrong, I'll get right on removing all the encryption in my company's products."

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 18 Jul 2016 @ 10:21am

    In today's episode of Techdirt Advertising Theatre...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jul 2016 @ 10:37am

    watch the movie Trumbo

    A progressive society should learn from its mistakes. This is nothing more than a repeat of the late 40's. Same story different actors. The irony is that back then we were looking for the 'commies' in our midst, and now they are running the government.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jul 2016 @ 11:32am

    Cook should have replied with one sentence -

    "Busy nerding hard, still unable to prove unicorns exist"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Jul 2016 @ 11:43am

      Re:

      More like "Busy nerding harder. Still unable to determine how to enable a man to walk on the surface of the sun."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • 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

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Seegras (profile), 19 Jul 2016 @ 8:26am

      Indiana Pi Legislators

      Yes, exactly what came to my mind. "What kind of looney tune is that Cyrus Vance character? Who in his right mind asks some Indiana PI legislator about mathematics?".

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jul 2016 @ 5:00pm

    And for those of you out there playing a drinking game ....

    Maverick !

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: I Invented Email
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.