During the last debate prior to the Super Tuesday primaries, moderators asked where the candidates stood on the federal court order that would give the FBI authority to gather information from the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino killers, who are suspected of being terrorists affiliated with the extremist group ISIS.
In an open letter on February 16, Apple chief executive Tim Cook said the FBI had essentially requested a backdoor into the Cupertino, California, hardware maker's encryption capabilities, which would put the privacy of all its customers at risk.
"Once created, the technique could be used over and over again, on any number of devices," Cook wrote. "In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks--from restaurants and banks to stores and homes."
Real estate billionaire Donald Trump did not give his opinion on the issue. Late last week, however, Trump told Bloomberg: "Tim Cook is living in the world of the make believe. ... I would come down so hard on him -- you have no idea -- his head would be spinning all of the way back to Silicon Valley." The four other remaining candidates all said that Apple must comply with the FBI.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz said Apple should be forced to obey the court order, because under the Constitution's Fourth Amendment, search and seizure are reasonable with probable cause.
"We should enforce the court order and find out everyone that terrorist[s] at San Bernardino talked to on the phone, texted with, e-mailed," Cruz said. "Apple doesn't have a right to defy a valid court order in a terrorism investigation."
Florida senator Marco Rubio said Apple had an obligation to comply with the FBI, because investigators weren't asking for a backdoor into the computer maker's operating system, but rather only to disable the phone's auto-erase mode, whereby it destroys data when accessed repeatedly by unauthorized people.
"Apple doesn't want to do it because they think it hurts their brand," Rubio said.
Ohio governor John Kasich said he would lock Apple executives in a room with security agents and force them to divulge the company's encryption secrets. "This is a failure of [President Obama's] leadership to get this done as an executive should be doing it," Kasich said.
Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who is trailing in the polls to also-ran status, said Apple is encouraging domestic chaos by not complying with the court order. "Allowing terrorists to get away with things is bad for America," Carson said.