Intel senator: FBI’s Apple strategy could backfire

Intel senator: FBI’s Apple strategy could backfire
© Greg Nash

The FBI could end up driving terrorists further toward "going dark" by using a federal court to gain access to an encrypted iPhone, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee said on Friday.

“It might push terrorists onto some other encrypted app that we can’t get at, or some other way that we’d lose track of them,” Sen. Angus KingAngus KingSenate confirms Chris Inglis as first White House cyber czar The Hill's Morning Report - After high-stakes Biden-Putin summit, what now? Tensions grow between liberals and centrists on infrastructure MORE (I-Maine) said in an interview with NPR.


“It’s exactly what happened when [former government contractor Edward] Snowden revealed that we knew the terrorists were using Yahoo Mail. So they went somewhere else.” 

The comments from King, a staunch moderate in Congress, hint at the apparent discomfort that many lawmakers feel about the court trying to use an 18th century law to compel Apple’s assistance.

In an order earlier this week, a federal judge told Apple to create new software helping the FBI gain access to an encrypted iPhone belonging to one of the shooters in last December’s killing of 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif. Apple has vehemently resisted the demand, which it sees as opening the door to new federal intrusions on people’s privacy.

Congress has flirted with the idea of writing new legislation targeting the proliferation of encrypted communications but has so far declined to move forward with any effort.

King on Friday suggested that should change.

“The problem with what’s happening in this case is that it’s purporting to make a very big change in the law by one judge under a 1789 statute,” he said. “This court case is a kind of shortcut around the public policy process.”

“I think they should have come to the Congress to debate the issues rather than go to court,” King added. “This is a major piece of public policy.”