The New York Times has a detailed account of a meeting last month between White House staff and several key technology executives, including Apple CEO Tim Cook.
“With all due respect, I think there’s been a lack of leadership in the White House on this,” Cook reportedly told government officials at the meeting, which included NSA director Michael Rogers and Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security.
The two-hour meeting reportedly ended on a sour note, with Cook and Denis R. McDonough, President Obama’s chief of staff, “agreeing to disagree.” The skirmish is important as Apple’s fight with the FBI moves from courthouses in California to Washington DC and the halls of Capitol Hill.
Unfortunately for Apple, it sounds as if it doesn’t have Obama’s full support. The Times reported that Cook has met with the president “at least a half-dozen times” during his tenure but there are no future meetings currently scheduled.
During a televised interview last week, Cook said he hasn’t spoken to Obama about the San Bernardino case yet, but vowed that he will.
The FBI is seeking to compel Apple to create custom software that disables certain iPhone security measures, so that law enforcement can extract encrypted data from a mobile phone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters.
On Tuesday, Apple’s top lawyer, Bruce Sewell, will testify before the House Judiciary Committee, and is expected to encourage Congress to pass laws that would make the FBI’s request moot.
“The decisions should be made by you and your colleagues as representatives of the people, rather than through a warrant request based on a 220 year-old-statute,” Sewell will say as part of his prepared remarks.
Before Sewell testifies, the committee will hear testimony from Apple’s nemesis over the past three weeks, FBI director James Comey.
Sewell will be on a panel with Susan Landau, a professor at WPI and former Google policy analyst, and Cyrus Vance, the Manhattan district attorney.
Vance has been outspoken in his criticism of Apple’s stance on encryption, and has said that his office has 175 Apple devices which he’d like Cupertino’s help unlocking. In a report last year, his office even included proposed language for a law that would require Apple to include a backdoor as part of its security measures.