The former head of the NSA has a surprising stance on Apple's battle with the FBI


Michael Hayden


Michael Hayden

Apple has found an unlikely ally in its fight against iPhone backdoors: the former head of the office responsible for spying.

Michael Hayden, who at different times was the head of the NSA and CIA, told USA Today's Susan Page that he's against legislation that would require tech companies to create so-called "backdoors" that would make it easier for law enforcement to access devices like smartphones and computers. 

Such backdoors, he told Page, create a "universal weakness" even though it would make it easier for law enforcement agencies to do their jobs.

"So Frankly, I'm with Tim Cook and Apple on the broader question" of backdoors, he said in the interview.

It's a surprising stance, considering most of the high-profile members from law enforcement have spoken out against Apple's stance on encryption.


But before the folks in Cupertino get too excited: Hayden said he's not sure Apple's current fight with the FBI over the contents of the iPhone that belonged to the suspected San Bernardino shooter is actually part of that "broader question."

"In this specific case, I'm trending toward the government," Hayden said. "This is a very specific, narrow request."

Hayden said that he doesn't think Apple helping law enforcement in the San Bernardino case would necessarily "lead to a universally available weakness."

But Apple has argued just that. In a new document it published online on Monday, Apple said that following the federal court order "would set a legal precedent that would expand the powers of the government and we simply don't know where that would lead us."

(Cyrus Vance, The New York District Attorney, has said that he has 175 phones that he can't access because of encryption.) 


Apple also argues that if it created a new version of its operating system to help the FBI, which it says is what the FBI wants, criminals could potentially get hold of it.

"The only way to guarantee that such a powerful tool isn't abused and doesn't fall into the wrong hands is to never create it," Apple said on Monday.

Hayden said that the burden of proof is on Tim Cook and Apple to show why helping the FBI in this case would have implications beyond just this specific case.

Check out the full interview USA Today interview with Page below. The discussion about Apple starts at about 1:45. 



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