Marco Rubio says national security is more important than Apple

Technically Incorrect: During the CNN/Telemundo debate, all the Republican candidates sided with the FBI against Apple in the case of the San Bernardino terrorist's phone

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


Marco Rubio doesn't stand with Apple.

Fox News/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Thursday's CNN/Telemundo Republican debate was full of accusations, recriminations and fulminations.

Perhaps the only thing that united all five candidates is the opinion that Apple should immediately back down and hack the San Bernardino terrorist's iPhone 5C for the FBI.

As Cupertino tried to progress the case to Congress, the candidates all insisted that the issue was very clear.

It was Marco Rubio who used the strongest vocabulary.

"They are not asking for Apple to create a backdoor to encryption," he said of the FBI. Indeed, he repeated the same argument that has been offered by the FBI -- that this is a one-off case.

"Apple doesn't want to do it [hack the phone] because they think it hurts their brand," Rubio insisted. "Well, let me tell you their brand is not superior to the United States of America."

It could be that Rubio felt he needed to be the most forceful, as he'd told a CNN town hall last week that Apple wasn't "necessarily in the wrong."

Still, saying that Apple is merely protecting its brand is a potent argument. If, that is, you don't believe Apple CEO Tim Cook's contention that hacking into the terrorist's phone will set a precedent and is the software equivalent of cancer.

Cook has, indeed, placed security and privacy at the very heart of the Apple offering in the past 12 months.

He has chided companies such as Facebook and Google for, in his eyes, being far more lax on these topics. He has said that privacy is an issue of morality.

Republican candidate Ben Carson didn't see it that way at all during the debate. All morality is on the government's side, as far as he's concerned.

"I think allowing terrorists to get away with things is bad for America," he said.

Fellow candidate John Kasich insisted that this was all President Barack Obama's fault for not getting everyone into a room and locking the door until an agreement is reached.

Cook, however, insisted to ABC News on Wednesday night that Apple first heard of the FBI's legal action from the media. This, he said, was despite the fact that Apple had been helping the FBI get data from this phone for some time.

There's now also a certain complication to the idea that Apple is merely trying to protect its brand.

With Microsoft coming out in support of Apple "wholeheartedly," and with Facebook, Twitter and Google -- among others -- having already added their support and perhaps filing amicus briefs, this could be seen less as Apple versus FBI and more as Tech Industry versus FBI.

That's a battle with a slightly different tone.

It's all very well for leading Republican candidate Donald Trump to call for a boycott on Apple products, but Cook's demeanor during his ABC interview was determined and highly emotional. So much so that he repeated his "cancer" analogy three times.

Of course, it could be said that one of the things that tech companies are protecting here is their own right to hold extremely private information while resisting the government's ability to access it.

Whom do you trust? No one is an acceptable answer.