Apple, FBI Amp Up the Rhetoric Over Mass Killer's Locked iPhone

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2016-02-22 Print this article Print
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What Cook is doing is using a tactic I see frequently here in Washington when a politician wants to gain support for a position that some might see as untenable. When that happens, they make claims about assertions by the other side of the argument that may have little connection with reality. But what these politicians know is that if you assert something to be true long enough and forcefully enough, people will start to believe it.

This tactic has been around for decades. During another period in history, its advocates called it "The big lie."

What's unfortunate is that Apple is putting itself into a losing situation. If the company really does manage to appeal the court order to the Supreme Court and then loses, which is likely, Cook is going to look like an idiot and in the process he will have deeply embarrassed a company that until now has had a sterling reputation.

Cook's assertions sound like the company is grasping at straws. For example, consider Cook's derision of the All Writs Act, which was passed 230 years ago. But just because the law goes back to the first days of the Republic doesn't make it irrelevant. What the All Writs Act actually does is simply allow courts to issue orders with the legal standing to be obeyed. It's one of the laws that form the basis for government in the United States.

In an earlier column, I suggested that there should be some middle ground in which Apple can give the FBI the information it needs to complete an investigation that might uncover or rule out the existence of co-conspirators or future threats. It's clear from the motion by the Department of Justice that the government is indeed seeking a middle ground, but it's equally clear that Apple doesn't want that.

Instead, Apple seems to be staking its reputation on an ill-advised line in the sand. Tim Cook is saying that he won't cross that line and that the court can't make him. But the fact is that the court can indeed make him cross that line, and Cook is well enough educated that he knows this.

That means that the real question is why Cook is taking such a no-compromise stand. It seems to me that the only rational explanation is that he wants to be able to tell future customers that he tried really hard to stand up against the feds, but couldn't. It is, in other words, a marketing ploy, complete with the cynical big lie approach to marketing.



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