Rush Limbaugh: How the U.S. government bungled the handling of the San Bernardino iPhone

Among other things during his radio program, Mac, iPhone, and iPad user Rush Limbaugh on Monday discussed the U.S. government’s attempt to force Apple to write software to allow them to brute force open an Apple iPhone used by San Bernardino terrorist, the late Syed Farook.

The 3-hour Rush Limbaugh Show, the highest-rated, most-listened-to talk-radio program in the United States with some 15 million weekly listeners, airs daily on a network of approximately 590 AM and FM affiliate radio stations. The program is also broadcast worldwide on the U.S. Armed Forces Radio Network.

From the live on-air transcript:

I’ve had people over the weekend sending me questions, comments, about this argument between Apple and the FBI, and what it means for the terrorist’s phone. I’ve taken a lot of time to try to answer in great detail. I have expressed and expressed and tried to correct incorrect assumptions that people have. You know, it’s amazing to me. Do you trust this government, folks? I don’t. I don’t trust the Obama administration. I never have trusted it. I don’t trust it now; I won’t trust it in the future. And most of you don’t, either.

Most of you are very suspicious of it, and rightly so. You should be. This is an administration that doesn’t really care about the Constitution much, trying to transform the country, erase or harm much or many of the things that have defined our greatness. Yet when this episode comes along, everybody’s all for the government. Why? Because there’s a terrorist involved. Yep. A terrorist, a terrorist’s phone. And so everybody casts aside their distrust, their justified distrust and throws all-in because this phone belonged to a terrorist.

If you really want to know what this is about, you have to forget what kind of phone this is, iPhone 5c, 5s, 6s, 6 Plus. Forget it. It doesn’t matter. You have to forget that a terrorist was involved, because that’s not what this is really all about. You have to focus on one thing. Have you learned through all of this…? Do you now realize it? Despite how many of you have been running around thinking that the NSA is tracking your every move, they can listen to every conversation…?

They can maybe even turn on your microphone or camera on your phone and monitor what you’re saying because your life is so exciting, people at the NSA can’t stop tracking you! Now all of a sudden, you’re learning the government cannot hack your phone. You have learned they cannot get into your phone. Do you want ’em to be able to? It’s no more complicated than that. If you want them to be able to get into your phone, then support the FBI; tell Apple to shut up and go away. But this is even more frustrating than that, because of what we learned over the weekend.

The terrorists’ phones were not owned by the terrorist. Mr. Syed Farook Skyhook did not own his phone. San Bernardino County owned the phone… Apple doesn’t need to add anything, and the FBI doesn’t need to have Apple rewrite software for all of us because what they want exists in a large number of circumstances and did exist in this San Bernardino situation. But I’m sure the people at San Bernardino were clueless and had no idea how to do [Mobile Device Management software]. They even confused the passcode to unlock phone and the passcode for the Apple ID connecting the phone to iCloud. They got confused over that. They literally had no idea what they were doing. It’s stunning what they did not know.

…The DOJ, by the way, is accusing Apple of PR only. Have you heard their allegation? “Apple’s only resisting us to do a PR maneuver to try to show their customers that they really care about security. Apple doesn’t really care about your security. They’re just trying to PR to help marketing and tell everybody…”

The truth here is if anybody’s using marketing and PR, it’s the FBI by choosing this phone to make this fight about. Yeah. It happens to be the phone of a dead terrorist. And the bottom line is, San Bernardino County had the ability — on two different occasions — to get anything off that phone that the FBI now claims it wants. The mechanisms were there, if anybody had just taken a moment to learn what they had.

There’s evidence upon evidence upon evidence of how this government abuses its power, whether it’s privacy, whether it’s security, whether it’s statutory, or whatever. But then along comes this incident — and the magic words “terrorist phone” — and everybody forgets all that and assumes that this government is clean and pure as the wind-driven snow and wouldn’t do anything more than what they’re asking us to do and they don’t want to do anything more than what they’re telling us they want to do.

“And we’ve gotta find out what’s in that phone because there’s terrorism and there’s terrorists and there’s refugees and they could be plotting against us, and this phone could have that data on it. We gotta know! We gotta know! We gotta know!” And that overrides everything, and people fall for it (you can understand it) hook, line, and sinker. But that’s not what this is about. If you really want to get down to brass tacks, why is this even an issue? Open borders. Why is this even an issue? Because this Regime’s making not a single effort to stop anybody.

Yeah, they might be deporting here and there, but you know that they’re accepting refugees from war-torn areas, and they are military-aged and able-bodied men. We have the illegal immigrant problem on the southern border. There are people coming into this country every day that we cannot count, that we cannot keep track of, and they’re going out and getting phones. And so the way we gotta keep track of ’em is to make sure that everybody’s phone can be inspected whenever the FBI… I mean, there’s so many things here that we should fix first before we all just decide to give up our security.

Look, folks, nobody elected Tim Cook. I understand this. Nobody elected Tim Cook to safeguard our privacy or security. That’s ostensibly what we elect politicians to do. But when they won’t do it, thank God Tim Cook will, is the way I look at this.

…By the way, there’s another story going around I need to blow to smithereens (you may have seen it), that Apple has on 70 previous occasions broken into phones at the request of the FBI to provide them information that they want in a criminal pursuit. That is not true. Apple has never broken into a locked phone for anybody. They have never broken into one of their devices that’s locked for the FBI or anybody else.

Apple Filevault iconForget that the phone’s a phone. Think of it as a safe, and the FBI needs to get into Syed Farook’s safe. The safe is in Syed Farook’s house, but they can’t crack the safe. Every time they try to move the combination, the safe doubles down and locks even further, so they go to the safe manufacturer, “You need to get us the combination to unlock that safe.” The manufacturer says, “We didn’t set the combination, the customer did.”

They don’t have it.

“We know you can get into it, and we want you to get into it. We know you have a way to unlock every damn lock you’ve got, combination or not. So get in there and do it!” “Well, well, well, well, we don’t. The customer sets the lock and the combination and we…” “We know that you can do it. You better do it! And while you’re at it, we want the combination for every safe you’ve ever made.” In other words: “We at the FBI want to be able to open any safe you have ever made.” How many of you would go for that? [Bold emphasis added. – MDN Ed.]

…I know Apple’s gonna lose this. I’m gonna lose this, Apple’s gonna lose this, because over here we have a terrorist phone, we have the United States government, we have a massive PR machine, Barack Hussein Obama and all that going out and everybody on TV, the Democrats and the DOJ.

We’ve already got people worried sick about terrorists infiltrating the country, they’re here, we know they’re here because of Syed Farook Skyhook and so forth. And the FBI, “That phone, it’s a key, it is a key to finding out maybe what else they had planned. It’s a key to finding out who else knew what was going on. We can’t afford not to get that information. That information is more important than any civil right or any civil liberty.”

And there will be people that will fall for it. I know how this is gonna end up going. In 30 states Apple has protesters in the streets for them. But just like I know that Bernie is not gonna be the nominee, I know how this is gonna turn out, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating to me.

Full transcript here.

MacDailyNews Take:

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. – Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

Security experts: The FBI’s iPhone-unlocking demand of Apple is risky – February 22, 2016
Pew survey: More than half of Americans think Apple should comply with FBI – February 22, 2016
Facebook CEO Zuckerberg backs Apple versus U.S. government in iPhone security dispute – February 22, 2016
Tim Cook’s memo to Apple employees: ‘This case is about more than a single phone’ – February 22, 2016
Snowden: FBI could hack San Bernardino iPhone without Apple’s involvement – February 22, 2016
Why did the FBI direct the San Bernardino Health Department to reset Syed Farook’s Apple ID? – February 22, 2016
Apple posts open letter: ‘Answers to your questions about Apple and security’ – February 22, 2016
Apple could easily lock rights-trampling governments out of future iPhones – February 20, 2016
Apple is still fighting Big Brother – February 19, 2016
Apple: Terrorist’s Apple ID password changed in government custody, blocking access – February 19, 2016


  1. It’s bad enough that I disagree with President Obama, (okay, not THAT unusual) but now I’m agreeing with Rush?!?!?
    Okay it’s time for me to wake up now, I’m done dreaming about Oz. 🙂

    1. As usual what Limbaugh is saying here is a bunch of crap, it’s totally selective use of the facts to make his own point that he doesn’t trust a (black) president. What Apple is doing has nothing to do with “PR”, the FBI deliberately closed off the means of getting the data themselves just so they could take Apple to court. It’s the FBI who created this pseudo problem, not Apple. As others have noted again and again, Limbaugh is a blowfish–I’m really glad that in this free country I can simply turn him off…

      1. Huh Renaldo? You obviously didn’t read the article because you made EXACTLY the same points Rush did. So that would make what you said to be a bunch of crap and your attempt at commentary a “blow-fish”.

        Next time, be an adult person, read the article, process what was said and respond instead of being a liberal lemming and jumping off the cliff.

  2. What do I think of Rush’s comments? A bit one-sided in the sense that the Republicans started it all and are just as bad as the Democrats. After all, politicians from both sides look at “the people” as something to be ruled, and not at “THE PEOPLE” as someone to be served.

    But in his naivety he’s quite cute.

    1. Rush is just using this to try to score political points against Obama. If Bush or a Republican were in office he would be defending him. Rush is very predictable. Where was Rush when Bush was pushing through all types of security laws after 9-11? He was cheerleading for Bush.

      This is not a Republican or Democrat issue and those who try to make it so are simply weakening their case.

      The bottom line is this: as long as enough American citizens freak out over the word “terrorism”…as long as they fear this as their main threat…then we should expect this intrusion into privacy.

      I mean after the Paris and San Bernadino attacks, most of the Republican party called for some version of a ban on Muslim immigration. Some said we shouldn’t trust a Muslim refugee even if they were children. Republicans have called for torture and carpet bombing of civilians. This is the what drives this debate. When you have people calling for carpet bombing and torture, and this includes Rush Limbaugh, then what’s a little hacking into an iPhone?

      This is what the Bush administration started when they made a political decision to play on people’s fears after 9-11, rather than summon them to courage and greatness. FDR said that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, Bush and the GOP said that we should fear everything and everyone. Rush and Fox News only have amplified that message for over a decade.

  3. My problem with Rush Limbaugh’s take on this is that he has chosen to politicize this and makes it sound like it would be any different with a Republican administration. He very conveniently ignores the fact that the Patriot Act and the NSA phone surveillance programs were put in place under a Republican.

    This also has absolutely nothing to do with any kind of refugee. Syed Farook was a US citizen born in Chicago.

    Unfortunately the right wing morons who listen to Rush and are supporting Trump are too stupid to do any fact checking on their own and blindly believe anything Rush and the crowd at Fox News spew out.

    It is truly frightening how incapable the US populace is of discerning the truth for themselves. It certainly isn’t coming from the media on the left or the right.

      1. It would not be an overstatement to say that ObamaCare saved my life a few weeks ago.
        I’m working 7 days a week trying to get off of it, but when I needed it (and the health insurance companies wouldn’t give me the time of day before it) the Affordable Care Act was there when I needed it.

        1. Thank you Steve for pointing out that Obamacare has saved lives and will continue to do so.

          Those opposed to it refuse to acknowledge that simple truth; they just prefer to see it as some vague evil entity.

          1. Obamacare did save some lives – but endangered others. Most of the people who got covered under Obamacare did so because of Medicare’s expansion, not the purchasing of compliant policies on an exchange.

            What we now know is that over 6 million people lost policies on the open market and than enrollment in Obamacare is falling for exchange policies. Most of the exchanges are broke or insolvent and collapsing. We still have essentially the same number of people who are uninsured and for those who are, the coverage has gotten worse overall.

          2. You act like these lives saved are worth saving. More often than not, you’re saving ne’er-do-wells, so they hang around for another 10, 20, or 30 years leeching off the system, committing crimes, collecting welfare, spending food stamps, etc.

            In reality, not every person is of equal value to society.

            Not saying we shouldn’t have a way to help the less fortunate, but that you should consider the efficacy of Darwin’s Law. It’s culled the herd and made us all stronger for thousands of years. Now we thwart it and wonder why the indolent and the challenged are taxing our resources to death.

    1. This is not about Democrats or Republicans! This is about our liberties and keeping them.

      Patriot Act was approved by both sides of the aisle along with George Bush (R). But the Patriot Act is loved, supported and adored by Obama (D). He has pushed to renew this Act many times while in office. Maybe you should do your own fact checking and stop watching MSNBC!

      Sanders, Clinton and much of Trump want to continue Obama’s work, to take away our liberties, or in other words, “change you can believe in” (a popular slogan from Frank Marshal Davis – a communist, and an Obama mentor).

      Hang in their Tim Cook! I don’t care for most of your political views, but this I agree with!

    2. Yes, the Patriot Act and the NSA surveillance was installed under Bush but then it was narrowly focused at terrorist targets – it was needed because the fast pace of terrorist communication outpaced the wheels of justice to obtain subpoenas.

      Under Obama, it was vastly expanded to include virtually anyone, terrorist ties or not. When it was discovered that the Obama administration even used to it spy on members of Congress, that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

  4. Rush might be correct about the specific issue – and I do agree with him. But in among all that is bit after bit after bit of digs at these fools’ perceived enemies – democrats or Mr Obama or etc etc etc. Us vs them. Them vs us. And that, every last one of those things, is just a huge pile of smelly excrement designed by Rush L to inflame and continue to draw his audiences and destroy the required trust of the voters is a very biased and incorrect way. Unfortunately an iunsufficient portion of the people who listen to this guy or read these articles actually thinks and filters this propaganda out. That is why the US is in the sorry state it is in. Because the hate and bias will never solve the problems, not even close.

    1. I completely agree, SeanD. The Limbaughs and Becks of the world have created the extremists who are taking over the GOP – Trump, Cruz, Rubio, et al. They shouted from the rooftops that the Dems were ruining the country, that Obama hated America, that Obamacare is disastrous, that compassion for those less fortunate was bad, that compromising with the Dems would be the end of American values. Now they’ve got candidates who are also shouting those same things in order to win the votes of the people Beck and Limbaugh brainwashed. The GOP loved Limbaugh’s and Beck’s rhetoric. Now it’s stuck with the monsters they created.

    2. Exactly. A polarized political climate where one party, the GOP, refuses to compromise, makes for bad policy.

      But here’s the reality: When you have one entire political party, the GOP, demonizing all immigrants, calling for a ban on Muslim immigration, saying they are for the use of torture, calling for indiscriminate carpet bombing of cities in the Middle East even though it would create huge civilian casualties, etc…and it’s not just Donald Trump…then it should not surprise anyone that compared to that breaking into an iPhone is weak tea.

      Ever see the show “24?” That is how most Republicans think on the issue of terrorism and national security. And you can bet that Jack Bauer would not have hesitated to force someone to break into a phone used by a terrorist.

      1. Jimmy Carter temporarily banned Iranians from entering the country. No difference at all from Trump wanting to temporarily ban Muslims due to the painfully obvious problem of Islamic extremists.

        1. And what if that phone contains information leading to another “Islamic extremist” that was an accomplice to the terrorists?

          What if that leads to stopping another attack?

          If you believe that we have this huge terrorist problem then fine…but then other issues have to take second priority, including the privacy of a smartphone.

          I guarantee you that if this case was played out right after
          9-11, with a cellphone used by one of those terrorists, and say, Motorola or Nokia wouldn’t help in getting into the phone, that there would have been a huge public outcry. No company would have made that stand after those events.

          1. And what if a group of people are plotting some kind of crime in their living room? What it having law enforcement knowing what they were saying would lead to stopping that crime?

            So shouldn’t the telephone companies be required to let the government listen in through the telephone in that room (which, let me assure you, is one hell of a lot easier than what Apple is being requested to do)?

            If personal rights can be sacrificed for a “what-if,” then personal rights mean precisely nothing, and the entire concept of limited government power granted by the people to the government is an illusion; we simply have our rights at the pleasure of the government who can take them away at any time of their choosing.

            Sorry, not what I signed up for.

        2. This is a distortion, “historian,” and you know it. Carter imposed sanctions on Iranian nationals entering the country as part of an objective to secure the release of the U.S. hostages without military intervention. Trump wants to ban all Muslims from entering the country as a “security” measure. There is no equivalency here. Learn your history.

    3. You are so right. Limbaugh mixes some common sense with his usual hate speech. Every time he spews “Barack Hussein Obama” from his vile mouth, he betrays himself as the bigot he is. I don’t give a damn whether he backs Apple or the FBI; we don’t need a hate monger in this fight.

      1. Disagreeing with someone is not “hate speech”. That phrase has been invented to silence one’s dissenters. *

        *See 1936 German National Socialists Party and 1917 Soviet Communist Party.

  5. “… are too stupid to do any fact checking on their own and blindly believe anything Rush and the crowd at Fox News spew out …”

    Oh, you mean kinda like the lies and bullshit Hillary spews out about firearms manufacturers and the 2nd Amendment, that are sucked up with gusto by the left wing Democrats? Got it.

  6. nobody elected Tim Cook, but fourtysomething voted for him by buying iPhones. they bought the safe. more would have done so if they could afford to, or if they were aware of what’s at stake.

  7. the whole thing makes me sick, but then again, our country has been circling the drain for awhile now…the politics spill over into all corners of our culture, and facts have given way to opinion for a long time now. The terrorists will win this one, to have our rights taken away by those two jihadists will be much more than they could have ever hoped to accomplish on that fateful day..

    1. In all fairness, this issue is important but it’s not going to make or break us. We’ve endured far worse. During WWII we had the govt inter Japanese Americans and do a lot of crazy stuff, for instance.

      If Apple is forced by the courts to do their thing to get into the iPhone, life for most of us will just go on as always. There will be ripple effects, but we will survive and go on to thrive like always. This whole issue of privacy in the digital age may take decades to play out with many swings of the political pendulum.

      1. Everything will be fine until you make a disparaging comment about the government. Soon after, Trump’s jackboots will track you down like an animal and discard your corpse into the pit of apostates.

  8. I disagree, the democrats nailed it and as Ms Clinton made an airtight proposal.

    Let start a Manhattan type project against encryption. She is keeping her eye on the enemy- anyone with a lock.

    YEA! Break it all!! 🙃

  9. God help anyone if they arouse the suspicion of the FBI. Like their foreign equivalents, they pretend to operate on principles laid down by their state, but over time learn to regard themselves as the protectorate of an otherwise weak state. It is a form of grandiose delusion that can be kept in check only by strong opposong factions.

    This FBI and DOJ are not parroting the White House line; they are dictating it. It’s like an anti-Watergate.

  10. I’m starting to question if the FBI already has the info and is just using this as a ploy to open future phones.

    Apple has provided employer’s management capabilities for $19.99 it’s called OS X Server and profile manager. Not very hard to use and it can reset the password on almost any iPhone or iOS device that has been setup.

    I really can’t believe that our government is this helpless.

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