Silicon Valley lawmaker backs Apple in terror case

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Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), whose district includes Silicon Valley, on Thursday backed Apple as it battles against a court order to unlock one of the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhones.

“I am proud to stand beside Tim Cook, Apple and the central beliefs our nation was founded on,” said Honda, who represents Cupertino, Calif., where Apple's headquarters are located.  

“Apple should not be forced to violate the privacy of its customers,” he added, aligning himself with numerous other tech-focused lawmakers.

The FBI wants Apple to assist in bypassing some of the security features on a government-owned iPhone 5c used by Syed Rizwan Farook for his job at a local health department. The agency says the phone could contain information valuable to its investigation into the San Bernardino, Calif., terror attacks that left 14 people dead in December.

Several Republican lawmakers and GOP president candidates have called on Apple to comply with the request.

But the tech giant has resisted, arguing such a move would force the company to create new software that amounts to a “back door” into the encrypted device. This type of software is “too dangerous to create,” Apple said, because it could give hackers and cyber spies a road map to infiltrate all iPhones.

The standoff is expected to lead to a protracted legal battle that could determine the future of access to encrypted devices.

“Our police and intelligence services must not be allowed to force Apple to create software or hardware that would usher in the opportunity for hackers to violate the iPhone,” Honda said.

The lawmaker cited numerous historical examples where the government violated people’s “fundamental rights” in the name of national security, including blacklists during the 1950s Red Scare and the Japanese-American internment camps during World War II, which Honda personally experienced in childhood.

“Each was an example of fear for our safety overriding our dedication and adherence to our principles,” he said. “Each time, the result was the same, we violated the fundamental rights of our people, with no added security.”

Honda said the FBI’s request is another example of overreach.

“Defending our people must be done with the pride in the independent spirit and resolve that built our nation, not with the tyrannical impulses that were the very reason our country was created,” he said.

Honda’s stance could have an impact on his reelection campaign this fall.

As the incumbent in 2014, Honda won a narrow victory over Democrat Ro Khanna, who was propped up by tech sector money, including donations from top venture capitalists and executives at Silicon Valley companies like Google and Facebook.

Honda had backing from Democratic Party leaders, including President Obama, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and California’s Democratic senators. Labor, environmental and liberal groups also supported his reelection bid.

Khanna has announced he will be challenging Honda again in 2016.