Senator McCain says it’s ‘unacceptable’ that Tim Cook declined testify about encryption, warns of ‘subpoena power’

“Sen. John McCain warned Google and Apple executives Thursday that the Senate Armed Services Committee ‘has subpoena power’ that could compel them to testify on why their encryption systems on newer smartphones are not accessible to law enforcement operating under court orders,” John Grady reports for USNI News.

“The Arizona Republican, who chairs the panel, said, “There’s an urgency” to finding a solution to the matter of protecting privacy while also not closing out police, prosecutors and intelligence agencies from lawfully pursuing criminals and terrorists,” Grady reports. “At the start of the hearing, McCain noted that Tim Cook, president of Apple, declined to attend the session. ‘This is unacceptable,’ he noted of Cook’s reluctance to appear, as the hearing neared its end.”

“McCain indicated at the hearing, the second on cyber encryption that he has called, he was leaning toward passing legislation rather than establishing a commission to study the issue,” Grady reports. “One proposal in the Senate is to have the commission make a recommendation back to Congress and the administration within a year or 18 months.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Encryption is either on or off. There is no middle ground. There are no back doors that are only for the “good guys.” If there’s no encryption present, good luck selling internationally.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Paul” for the heads up.]

27 Comments

    1. Also remember that MacCain was photographed meeting a neo-Nazi party leaders of Ukraine, where he supports the new regime that came after Obama/Clinton/Kerry/Biden/Nuland co-arranged coup that overturned the country’s legitimate authorities. Alas, John MacCain is a warmongering neocon maniac that makes all of us closer to the WWIII.

  1. If John McCain couldn’t notice Sarah Palin was a wing nut devoid of anything that would qualify her as a VP, i doubt he has the mental ability to make informed decisions about the topic. He is just playing the fear game as he is in a tight race this year.

    1. Sarah Palin is one hundred times more competent than Hillary. Palin actually has accomplishments as governor of Alaska. She saved Alaskans money, shut down worthless programs (e.g. “bridge to nowhere”) and fought corruption within her own party.
      Hillary has zero notable accomplishments for American people. But Hillary does have $billions of accomplishments for her Clinton Foundation.

  2. Gee is there really this situation: “There’s an urgency” to finding a solution to the matter of protecting privacy while also not closing out police, prosecutors and intelligence agencies from lawfully pursuing criminals and terrorists.”

    Well have I got some help for you, I just happen to know of one of the world’s worst terrorist since Adolph Hitler. Goes by the name of George W. Bush. You can find him in Texas some weird. Get his sorry ass to the Hague so that he can be tried on crimes of humanity or continue your poor spineless existence.

  3. Well it’s pretty “unacceptable” Senator McCain when YOU’VE been warned that there is no free ride or backdoor encryption possible. It’s all or nothing. The Pandora’s Box you’d open & chaos you’d create if you tried would not be worth the access you crave for law enforcement. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

    1. I wish I could give you six stars. 🙁

      Since I can’t, I gave you three stars and plan on giving you another three tomorrow. It’s the best solution I can find at the moment.

      I completely agree with your comment.

    2. Derek,
      While I agree with you and MDN that McCain’s position is right up there with other anti-scientific craziness like defining Pi as 3.0, I cannot agree that his proposal violates the Fourth Amendment. One has to assume that he is suggesting that peace officers who want access to encrypted data will still have to obtain an individual search warrant based on probable cause sufficient to withstand judicial review. That is all the Fourth Amendment requires.

      It would be ***horrible*** public policy to legally require vendors to provide weak encryption that law enforcement could easily crack. The damage done by criminals taking advantage of weak encryption in connection with industrial espionage, identity theft, fraud, stalking, and other offenses would vastly exceed the possible damage by terrorists and other criminals taking advantage of strong encryption.

      As MDN points out, a user either has strong or weak encryption. For reasons of science, not politics, there is no middle ground. McCain’s proposal is right up there with suggesting that we need to solve the energy shortage by using perpetual motion machines. However, I know of no legal (as opposed to logical or moral) reason why Congress could not mandate weak encryption under the constitutional police power and commerce clause, so long as each individual search still required a valid warrant.

      I agree that governments need to serve the citizens, rather than the reverse, but in this particular case, the McCain proposal is just crazy, not unconstitutional. We need to attack it on its clear irrationality, not its dubious unconstitutionality.

      I really wish that Apple and its lawyers would attack this nuttiness directly, rather than dodging the invitation to explain their position before Congress and the American people.

      1. Excellent points, as ever. But I have to differ with your interpretation of the Fourth Amendment. I have the right to do whatever I choose with my private anything, including data. If the government has no way to crack into my ‘safe’, tough luck. IOW: I have the right to full end to end encryption in my communications. I have the right to lock up my private information in uncrackable encryption with the key located only within my mind with the Fifth Amendment affording me the right to never divulge that key.

        The general point of my perspective is to wipe out any and all chances of totalitarianism in the USA. We know full well that the trend is directly toward totalitarianism in response to both the bogus and real threats of ‘terrorism’ and other accelerating crimes.

        To restate the obvious, poor or no encryption won’t affect me personally as much at it will affect the US government and businesses. They take the biggest hits from cracking by China: Criminal Nation, among other malefactors in our human world. To fight encryption is equivalent to deliberately blowing off one’s leg with a grenade. Oops. That was a bad idea… 💣💥

        There are plenty of other ways to surveil the crooks without damaging citizen’s rights.

        1. I agree that prohibiting you from USING strong encryption might raise constitutional issues, though not so much from the Fourth Amendment as from the (contested) Fourteenth Amendment right to privacy. However, that is not how the Government would try to skin the cat. They would argue—I think successfully—that Apple et al. have no constitutional right to SELL strong encryption because of its alleged (read, “entirely fictitious”) adverse impact on national security, public safety, and interstate commerce.

          1. And yet, without encryption used by the government there would be an adverse impact on national security, public safety and interstate commerce…. I know full well how incompetent the US government has been regarding the safety of their computers exposed to the Internet. In 2007 they finally admitted, after 9 years of Chinese hacking, that their computers had all been botted with all data on those computers sent to China. If only that data has all been encrypted.

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