In a wide-ranging interview that touched on topics including politics, climate change and discussions he’s had with President Trump, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the San Bernardino case was “very rigged” and should have gone to court.
Speaking at the Time 100 Summit, Cook said he wished the case had gone to court because the facts showed that the government acted in a “very dishonest manner” towards the Cupertino, Calif.-based technology company.
“I wish that case would have gone to court, to be honest, it was dropped the day before,” Cook told interviewer Nancy Gibbs as the two discussed privacy and device encryption in the U.S. “And now after the inspector general reports have come out, our worst fears have been confirmed that it was a very rigged case to begin with. And so I think this was not the government’s finest hour. I have personally never seen the government apparatus move against a company like it did here in a very dishonest manner.”
Cook went on to say that he “felt like the naive guy that felt like things like this didn’t happen,” adding they [the U.S. government] were trying to prevent a discussion and debate about privacy.
“I hoped it would advance much farther than that,” Cook continued. “It has reoccurred and it’s occurred in no other country in the world, which made me that much more disappointed by the way that it happened in our country. But I do think for the everyday American privacy is materially more important sitting here today in 2019 than it was when we were going through their case.”
Last year, the Department of Justice concluded that the FBI inadvertently misled Congress that it had gone through every possible attempt to access the iPhone used by one of the people responsible for the San Bernardino terror attacks.
Climate change, focusing on policies, not politics
Cook also touched on several other areas that have affected Apple in recent years, including wading into the political debate, before adding that the iPhone-maker does not have a political action committee.
“We focus on policies, not politics,” Cook said. “We do not focus on politics and I recognize that everything, kind of unfortunately these days, it tends to break down in that way but we focus on the policy itself, not the politics. …[T]his is probably not known to a lot of people in here, but Apple doesn’t have a PAC. Apple is probably the only large company I would think or one of the very few that doesn’t have a PAC. I refuse to have one because it shouldn’t exist.”
Cook also said there should be limits about who donates to what candidate and it should be transparent:
“I think to people that should be able to donate or people that can vote, right? And we should set a limit about what that is and maybe its current limits. Maybe it’s a different limit and it should be transparent. And so the whole I never have donated any money to a PAC person. Every donation I’ve ever made is public. And so I can stand the public scrutiny, people can decide whether they like it or they don’t like it, and I do that for my personal self, not for the company.”
The tech chieftain added that Apple has donated “zero” to political candidates.
The 58-year-old Cook, who has had conversations with President Trump discussing a wide range of issues, including trade, said that government should not be looked at to solve all problems and that both the private sector and academia should also play a role.
“I think it takes the public sector, the private sector, and academia kind of working together to try to solve some of these huge problems,” he said onstage at the summit. “Climate change is not going to be solved by the government. It’s just one example, right. And so we readily step up and participate in the conversations. And because we think that how we do what we do says is as much about us as what we did.”
Cook was asked about the conversations he’s had with Trump and refused to talk about that, saying “regardless who the president is,” he does not think it’s proper to reveal private conversations.
He added that there are several issues important to Apple, including getting DACA fixed; fixing the immigration system, including greencard backlogs; trade; and education.
Cook also expressed support for further regulation of the technology sector, saying that although the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) “isn’t ideal,” it’s one area where Europe is ahead of the U.S. when it comes to protecting user’s privacy and data.
“The GDPR isn’t ideal, but GDPR was a step in the right direction,” he said. “And this is on the privacy side obviously. I don’t think it’s the same all in all. I think there’s plenty of things that didn’t do that it needs to do. But I think it’s a step in the right direction.”
Cook added that he thinks it’s possible some kind of regulation protecting privacy and data will come to the U.S., noting Apple is “advocating strongly for regulation because I do not see another path at this point.”
Fox News’ Tamara Gitt contributed to this report.