Adam Schiff wants to know why Apple didn’t put up more resistance

From Bloomberg’s “Apple Back in Washington Spotlight Over Trump-Era Subpoenas” posted Tuesday:

Apple Inc. is facing renewed scrutiny in Washington over its compliance with secret Trump-era subpoenas for user data on more than 100 users including U.S. lawmakers, highlighting the bind tech companies find themselves in when obliged to satisfy law enforcement demands.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, whose data was among material Apple turned over to the Justice Department, said on Monday that lawmakers will delve into how giant tech companies respond to subpoenas for information on their customers. Schiff, a California Democrat, enraged former President Donald Trump with congressional investigations of his administration’s ties to Russia.

The House Judiciary Committee on Monday announced an investigation into the Justice Department’s surveillance of members of Congress, journalists and others, ostensibly sparked by an effort to run down media leaks. The Senate Judiciary Committee also said it would look into the matter…

“The explosion in digital data that is held by internet companies and other third parties has made these subpoenas much more powerful and much more intrusive on people’s privacy,” said Elizabeth Goitein of the Liberty & National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “We rely on companies that hold this data to stand up for us and protect our interests and our privacy rights in response to these kinds of demands, and it’s not always clear that they have the incentive to do that.”

My take: Now that everyone is piling on, I’m inclined to cut Apple a little more slack. None of this is a good look for Tim Cook, of course. I thought Microsoft’s Brad Stone set the right tone in Sunday’s Washington Post: “The secret gag orders must stop.”


  1. Romeo A Esparrago Jr said:
    Mr. Tim Cook has to be cautious when you have executive level govt power that could impact Apple, AAPL, and it’s shareholders. Retaliation in terms of tariffs, populace goodwill, govt controlled media, courts, political influence/pressure etc are all areas to be considered is my guess. Whether it’s US, China, EU, etc. Whether it’s a battle worth fighting for now or whether referencing Sun Tzu’s Art of War for the long-term is the better approach.

    June 15, 2021
  2. Romeo A Esparrago Jr said:
    If one thinks about it, Apple’s evolution of PSOC (Privacy Security On a Chip) in its devices, will get to a point somewhen in the future where maybe even executive orders, gags, warrants, etc will provide Apple with the reply of “we can’t give you more than we have, and we no longer have what you want. Because we designed ourselves from being able to provide it. Sorry. “

    Just guessing out loud.

    June 15, 2021
  3. Fred Stein said:
    Schiff and Goitein have it backwards.

    When Tim Cook refused to create a backdoor for the FBI, almost everyone piled on.

    What he could not say directly was that we cannot trust government agencies, because the people running them can always be corrupted by greed, lust for power, coercion or negligence.

    Back to Schiff: We have separation of powers to prevent abuse by one branch. In today’s polarized world, you have to reach across the aisle to make this work. Don’t lose focus.

    June 15, 2021
  4. David Emery said:
    Schiff is a lawyer. He should be looking at the subpoena to determine what legal basis Apple would have to protest it. And THAT is what he should be saying back to Apple. If he can not find a legal basis to challenge the subpoena, then maybe he should propose a change to the law.

    All this “piling on” sure seems to be missing -legal analysis- on the legal validity of the subpoena and gag order. Without that analysis, this is just political whining. Do we really want companies like Apple, Facebook, Fox, etc, etc. deciding which subpoenas they will or will not honor?

    June 15, 2021
    • Greg Bates said:
      Yeah, exactly, David. Subpoenas have to be treated equally regardless of who they are focused on. Either there is some basis for contesting them or there isn’t. We can’t have Apple deciding it will contest subpoenas of people because they are politicians, or rich people, or deciding to protect any person based on membership in a class. To do other than treat people equally is a waste, courts trouble, and is unjust.

      June 15, 2021
    • David Emery said:
      Some thoughts on what Congress could put into law:

      1. Any surveillance requests for a Member of Congress, Congressional Staff, Congressperson’s family shall be approved personally by the AG.

      2. Any surveillance requests for that group shall also be disclosed to the “Gang of 8” (Or ‘a Gang of 7’ if one of the “Gang of 8” is the target of the request.)

      June 15, 2021
  5. Rodney Avilla said:
    “Adam Schiff wants to know why Apple didn’t put up more resistance”

    After his statements, I wonder if he added, “Gee, did I just say that out loud?”
    We know they think they are not to be treated as the commoner, but it’s not very often that they say it out loud.

    June 15, 2021
  6. Rodney Avilla said:
    “None of this is a good look for Tim Cook, of course.”
    Only if you look at it superficially, which is normally what politicians (and too often the press) do.
    When the dust settles, I think Cook and Co will be looking pretty good. As long as they follow the law without prejudice, they will come out just fine. They protected the commoner (& criminal) with the rights provided by the law (no back door), and didn’t provide favors to the powerful, who only think they are above the law.

    June 15, 2021
  7. John Konopka said:
    Well, it is a bit curious how this all happened. You wonder if it stayed with low level guys or was bumped up to upper management?

    June 15, 2021
  8. I’m still back trying to determine what data Apple handed over. DOJ is required to go to telecos for call records. Apple’s website states it can receive government requests related to a person’s device identifier, financial identifiers, customer data related to account information, and customer data requested in the midst of an emergency. Apple turns over metadata and account information and account subscriber information and did not provide any content such as emails or pictures in the leak case. ‘Account subscriber information’ can be combined with telco data to figure out where the phone went.
    Hackers and police departments clone suspect phones with similar data I’m still not permitted to enumerate, due to NDAs, gag orders without an end date.

    June 15, 2021
  9. Apple’s Government Request Transparency Site:

    I had to pay a TV tax when I lived in England and Germany. Drive on the wrong side in New Zealand. Get vaccinated for Yellow Fever. I had to submit to rather invasive exit interviews and interviews upon return to US. I followed all the laws of each land, despite my personal opinion of those laws

    June 15, 2021

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