Senator John McCain suggested he could subpoena Apple CEO Tim Cook

Tim Cook Sworn inGettyApple CEO Timothy Cook (L) and Apple head of tax operations Phillip Bullock are sworn in before testifying to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s Investigations Subcommittee in 2013.

Arizona Republican senator John McCain invited Apple CEO Tim Cook to testify in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee, McCain said on Thursday.

During a hearing on cybersecurity, McCain, who is the chairman of the committee, specifically called out Cook for declining the invitation. 

During McCain’s opening remarks, he said:

“I thank each of our witnesses for appearing before the committee today. But I must note for the record that these were not our only invited guests.

This committee extended an invitation to Apple CEO Tim Cook to offer his perspective on these important issues. He declined. I hope he will reconsider in the future so that this committee can benefit from the widest possible variety of perspectives.”

USNI News, a news site run by the U.S. Naval Institute, has some of the best details on the hearing

McCain at one point during the hearing pointed out that his committee “has subpoena power,” implying that he could force Cook to testify. At the end of the hearing, McCain said that Cook’s decision not to appear was “unacceptable,” according to USNI. 

The hearing was called to discuss encryption, or whether technology companies should build methods for national security and law enforcement officials to be able to crack into password-protected devices like the iPhone.

According to USNI, McCain is leaning towards passing legislation rather than establishing a commission — the opposite stance that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has supported and Apple appears to be leaning towards

Apple was thrown into the middle of the encryption debate when the FBI asked it to hack into a phone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters. The FBI withdrew its request for help after it paid a sizeable sum to a third-party hacker.

During that period, Bruce Sewell, Apple general counsel, testified in front of a House committee on encryption policy. Cook was invited to testify about encryption during that period but apparently declined. 

Cook previously testified at a Senate hearing about Apple’s tax practices in 2013. During that hearing, McCain joked with Cook, asking about why he has to keep updating his apps.

“What I really wanted to ask is why the hell I have to keep updating the apps on my iPhone all the time and why you don’t fix that,” McCain joked back in 2013. 


“The Senate Armed Services Committee meets this morning to receive testimony on cybersecurity, encryption, and U.S. national security.

“We are pleased to have with us a distinguished panel of expert witnesses who each bring a unique perspective to this important issue:

  • “Cyrus Vance, Jr., who currently serves as Manhattan District Attorney; 
  • “Chris Inglis, former Deputy Director at the National Security Agency, and a Professor of Cyber Security Studies at the U.S. Naval Academy; and
  • “Kenneth Wainstein, former Homeland Security Advisor and Assistant Attorney General for National Security at the Department of Justice during the Bush Administration, and now a partner at Cadwalader.

“I thank each of our witnesses for appearing before the committee today. But I must note for the record that these were not our only invited guests.

“This committee extended an invitation to Apple CEO Tim Cook to offer his perspective on these important issues. He declined. I hope he will reconsider in the future so that this committee can benefit from the widest possible variety of perspectives. 

“End-to-end encryption allows communications and data shared across devices and platforms to be seen only by the individual holding a device. The information on the device cannot be accessed, in most cases by the company, and in nearly all cases by the government, even with a lawful court order backed by probable cause. Major American tech companies have made this level of encryption the default setting on their devices, meaning that even the least-sophisticated lone wolves can operate in digital secrecy.

“Terrorist groups like ISIL have taken notice. ISIL’s backwards ideology and brutal tactics may be a throwback to medieval times. But these terrorists are also effectively using modern technological tools. Indeed, encryption is now ubiquitous across the counterterrorism fight — providing an avenue for recruitment and radicalization, as well as the planning and coordination of attacks that poses an increasingly difficult challenge to intelligence collection, military operations, and law enforcement.

“Put simply, encryption is eroding the digital advantage our national security and intelligence officials once enjoyed. And that is why the topic of encryption concerns the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“But we must also recognise that encryption is not just a national security issue concerning terrorists in distant lands. Encryption is being used to shield criminals that terrorize communities across this nation every day. As Mr. Vance will testify, there are thousands of lawfully-seized iPhones and other devices in the hands of law enforcement today that are completely inaccessible because their manufacturers refuse to comply with court-issued search warrants. The result is that thousands of murder, child sex abuse, and human trafficking cases are not being fully investigated. 

“Let there be no doubt: the job of our national security agencies and our local, state, and federal law enforcement is getting harder and the threat is growing.

“However, this is a complex problem with no easy solutions. Encryption technology protects our most common and essential day-to-day Internet activities, and safeguards our nation’s secrets from sophisticated cyber adversaries. We must carefully balance our national security needs and the rights of our citizens.

“And while we must recognise that that authoritarian regimes are eager to gain keys to encrypted software so they can further their own abusive policies, we must also resist slipping into a false moral equivalence. Not all governments are the same. Not all surveillance is the same. Complying with valid search warrants in countries that uphold the rule of law does not create an obligation for tech companies to assist repressive regimes that undermine the rule of law in suppressing dissent or violating basic human rights. 

“Yes, this is a difficult problem. But ignoring this issue is not an option. Nor is meeting all efforts to reach a middle ground with absolute resistance, as too many tech companies have done. An all-or-nothing approach to encryption that is making it difficult, and sometimes impossible, to prosecute murderers, pedophiles, human traffickers, and terrorists is simply unacceptable.

“I believe there is a growing recognition that the threat posed by the status quo is unacceptable, and that we need the public and the private sectors to come together to eliminate cyber safe havens for terrorists and criminals. The struggle between security and privacy, or between public and private goods, is not new. These struggles are as old as our republic. We haven’t always gotten it right, but when we’ve found that balance, it’s always been through open and honest dialogue. That is what we need right now.

“Beyond encryption I remain concerned by the Administration’s failure to provide the Department of Defence, the National Security Agency, and others with the necessary policy guidance to effectively defend, deter, and respond to our adversaries in cyberspace. To be sure, there has been important progress, including the willingness of the Administration to carry out and more openly discuss offensive cyber operations against ISIL.

“Still, policy deficiencies from deterrence to rules of engagement to arbitrary limitations on geographic areas of operations and cyber collateral damage all must be addressed. Rather than answering these hard policy questions, it seems the White House continues to micromanage every cyber issue on a case by case basis.

“Finally, as the role of Cyber Command continues to mature, some have suggested that we should reevaluate the ‘dual hat’ relationship between Cyber Command and NSA. Whether in the context of possibly elevating Cyber Command to a unified command or in its current role, we must be careful not to prematurely sever this important relationship. I welcome the views of our witnesses, especially Mr. Inglis, as to whether at some point in the future it may make sense for Cyber Command to stand independent of NSA.

“Once again, I thank our witnesses for their appearance before the committee today and I look forward to their testimony.”



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