Richard Clarke’s Take on Apple vs. FBI

The latest voice commenting on the Apple vs. FBI encryption case regarding the San Bernadino iPhone is perhaps the most clarifying yet.

Richard A. Clarke is the former National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection and Counter-terrorism for the United States. He worked under Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, and George W. Bush. So he knows a little about national security.

Clarke’s interview with NPR regarding the the Apple/FBI case is worth reading. Here are the salient points:

GREENE: What do you know about the debate within the Obama administration? It’s been reported that there really is a fierce debate over how to handle this.

CLARKE: Well, I don’t think it’s a fierce debate. I think the Justice Department and the FBI are on their own here. You know, the secretary of defense has said how important encryption is when asked about this case. The National Security Agency director and three past National Security Agency directors, a former CIA director, a former Homeland Security secretary have all said that they’re much more sympathetic with Apple in this case. You really have to understand that the FBI director is exaggerating the need for this and is trying to build it up as an emotional case, organizing the families of the victims and all of that. And it’s Jim Comey and the attorney general is letting him get away with it.

GREENE: So if you were still inside the government right now as a counterterrorism official, could you have seen yourself being more sympathetic with the FBI in doing everything for you that it can to crack this case?

CLARKE: No, David. If I were in the job now, I would have simply told the FBI to call Fort Meade, the headquarters of the National Security Agency, and NSA would have solved this problem for them. They’re not as interested in solving the problem as they are in getting a legal precedent.

GREENE: Wow, that sounds like quite a charge. You’re suggesting they could have just gone to the NSA to crack this iPhone but they’re presenting this case because they want to set a precedent to be able to do it in the future?

CLARKE: Every expert I know believes that NSA could crack this phone. They want the precedent that the government can compel a computer device manufacturer to allow the government in.

The emphasis (in bold) is mine.