What do they have in common? They want to be president and (seem to) think Apple should comply with the FBI. (credit: Getty Images)
The now five candidates vying for the GOP presidential nomination discussed everything from immigration, health care, and the Middle East during their latest debate, sponsored by CNN/Telemundo and held in Houston on Thursday evening. But what caught our attention was the candidates' discourse about the Apple-FBI encryption legal fight.
CNN moderators Wolf Blitzer and Dana Bash actually initiated the topic. Blitzer first mentioned how Apple responded to the FBI's court order earlier in the day with a formal motion to vacate. Bash then addressed the topic to Florida Senator Marco Rubio, referencing his defense of Apple last week during a GOP candidate town hall in South Carolina.
BASH: Senator Rubio, you say it's complicated, and that, quote, "Apple isn't necessarily wrong to refuse the court order." Why shouldn't investigators have everything at their disposal?
RUBIO: No, in fact what I have said is the only thing—the FBI made this very clear 48 hours ago—the only thing they are asking of Apple is that Apple allow them to use their own systems in the FBI to try to guess the password of the San Bernardino killer. Apple initially came out saying, "We're being ordered to create a back door to an encryption device." That is not accurate.
The only thing they're being asked to do, and the FBI made this very clear about 48 hours ago, is allow us to disable the self-destruct mode that's in the Apple phone so that we can try to guess using our own systems what the password of this killer was.
And I think they should comply with that. If that's all they're asking for, they are not asking for Apple to create a back door to encryption.
BASH: So just to be clear, you did say on CNN a couple of weeks ago this is a complicated issue; Apple is not necessarily wrong here.
RUBIO: Because at the time, Apple was portraying that the court order was to create a back door to an encryption device.
BASH: But just to be clear—just to be clear, if you are president, would you instruct your Justice Department to force Apple to comply or not?
RUBIO: To comply with an order that says that they have to allow the FBI the opportunity to try to guess the password?
RUBIO: Absolutely. That Apple phone didn't even belong to the killer. It belonged to the killer's employee (sic) who have agreed to allow him to try to do this. That is all they're asking them to do is to disable the self-destruct mode or the auto-erase mode on one phone in the entire world. But Apple doesn't want to do it because they think it hurts their brand.
Bash and Blitzer soon directed the question of national security or personal privacy to a trio of other candidates in attendance—Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Ohio Governor John Kasich, and Neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson. Cruz pointed out Rubio's potential hypocrisy, said Apple doesn't need to place back doors in every phone, but concluded with "Apple doesn't have a right to defy a valid court order in a terrorism investigation." Carson simply took an anti-terror approach ("I think allowing terrorists to get away with things is bad for America"), while Kasich criticized President Obama for not bringing the two sides together for a meeting outside the court system.