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OPINION
 

PRO/CON: Was it right for Apple to say no to helping FBI hack an iPhone?

Protesters, including Victoria Best (right) and Charles Fredricks, hold signs supporting Apple in its fight against the FBI. They stood outside the Apple store in Santa Monica, California, on Feb. 23, 2016.
Protesters, including Victoria Best (right) and Charles Fredricks, hold signs supporting Apple in its fight against the FBI. They stood outside the Apple store in Santa Monica, California, on Feb. 23, 2016. Katie Falkenberg/Los Angeles Times/TNS

PRO: Apple's fight against the FBI helped defend rights of all Americans

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has dropped its lawsuit against Apple. The FBI is America's federal law enforcement organization. It will no longer try to force Apple to help it get information from Syed Farook's iPhone. This does not make Apple’s decision not to help the FBI any less important.

Farook and his wife killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California, last December. The FBI thought there might be information about the attack on Farook's phone. However, iPhones have very good security features. No one can get into someone else's iPhone without the password. The FBI asked Apple, the company that makes the iPhone, to help them get into the phone without the password. Apple said no. Apple would not help. The FBI tried to force Apple to help them by taking the company to court. 

The FBI eventually got into Farook's iPhone without Apple's help. The lawsuit ended, but the problem was not solved. In fact, problems like this will probably happen again. That is why it is important to understand why Apple did the right thing by not helping the FBI.

Important American rights were at stake here. The law exists to protect people’s rights, not take them away.

U.S. Government Can't Force Apple To Help

Think about what the FBI asked Apple to do. The FBI did not ask Apple to turn over information it already had. Apple never had the information the FBI wanted. Instead, the FBI wanted Apple to write a program to unlock, or open Farook's iPhone. 

The U.S. government cannot do this. The U.S. government does not have the right to force anybody to help it against their will.

Some people think Apple was right to say "no" to the FBI for other reasons. These people say helping the FBI would have been bad for Apple's business. It would have made people lose trust in Apple.

Should the U.S. government be able to force companies to hurt their own business?

Apple phones have features that protect people's information. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says people have the right to protect their information. Apple has rights too. Apple has the right to make phones that help people protect their information.

When There Is No War, There Are No Extra Powers For The Government

The Fourth Amendment also gives the U.S. government rights. The government can search someone's property and information, but only if done right. The government needs permission from the courts to do this. The government also needs a very good reason for their search. 

There have been times in history when the government has had extra powers. For example, Congress gave the president extra powers during both World War I and World War II. During these wars, the president could force companies to build things to help fight the war. Those powers ended when the wars ended.

The FBI wanted that kind of power over Apple during normal times. The FBI wanted that kind of power without Congress saying it could have it.

Apple's fight with the FBI was about more than getting information from one phone. It was about our rights to protect our information.

ABOUT THE WRITER: Randall G. Holcombe studies social problems at the Independent Institute. He teaches at Florida State University. His address is 162 Bellamy Building, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida 32306. Readers may also email him at holcombe@fsu.edu.

This essay is available to Tribune News Service subscribers. Tribune did not subsidize the writing of this column; the opinions are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of Tribune or Newsela.

CON: Apple's Position Has Made It Harder For The FBI To Protect Americans

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has opened up Syed Farook's iPhone. This is good news for America's national law enforcement organization. It might help the FBI learn why Farook and his wife killed 14 people in California last December. 

Apple is the company that makes iPhones. The FBI asked Apple to help them to unlock, or open, Farook's iPhone without the password. Apple said no. Then the FBI found another way to open the phone. Just because the FBI found a way to open the phone does not mean Apple was right to say "no."

Tim Cook runs Apple. By saying "no," Cook made it harder for the FBI to learn more about Farook. He made it harder for the FBI to protect America. That decision is hard to defend when extremist groups are attacking America and its friends.

Cook had his reasons for saying "no." He worried that helping the FBI would break the trust between Apple and its customers. He also worried the U.S. government might take away some of people's rights.

Apple's resistance slowed FBI investigation

Cook might have been correct to worry about people's rights. However, he also slowed the FBI by three months. During these months some horrible things happened. The Islamic State extremist group set off bombs in places such as Brussels, Belgium and Pakistan. The Islamic State is also known as ISIS and ISIL.

The March 22 bombings in Brussels killed more than 30 people. Brussels is the capital of Belgium, a country in Europe. Brussels is also the meeting place of the European Union. The EU is a group of 28 European countries that work together to solve common problems.

Security agencies in Europe are very worried. They believe small extremist groups are hiding in Europe. These small groups of fighters might try to explode more bombs.

The FBI and other government agencies are also worried. They worry there might be small extremist groups planning attacks in America too.

Hopefully, America's leaders will start listening to these worries. Our leaders might even realize that World War III might have already started. It will not end until we stop the extremist groups waiting to attack us.

Apple Should Do What Businesses Did In World War II

Apple’s Cook should take a history lesson. He should think about how American business leaders helped to fight World War II. 

When the United States entered World War II in 1941, our planes, tanks and ships were very old. A group of 20 American businessmen helped to change that. Many of these businessmen ran car companies. 

They turned their car factories into war factories. Their factories stopped making cars and started making vehicles for the Army.

Ford made 24,000 B-24 airplanes in a single factory.

Chrysler made more than 86,000 Sherman tanks. 

General Motors outdid everyone. GM produced 854,000 trucks, 198,000 diesel engines and 206,000 airplane engines. GM also made 38,000 tanks, tank destroyers and armored vehicles. 

America’s business leaders put the country ahead of their own worries. Many worked for a dollar a year until the war ended.

Now, the fight against extremists groups might become World War III. Apple’s Tim Cook should think about the sacrifices made by businessmen in World War II. They only made $1 a year. Last year Apple's Cook made $10.28 million.

ABOUT THE WRITER: Whitt Flora is a journalist. He was a chief writer for Aviation & Space Technology Magazine. His address is 319 Shagbark Road, Middle River, Maryland 21220.

This essay is available to Tribune News Service subscribers. Tribune did not subsidize the writing of this column; the opinions are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of Tribune or Newsela.

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1
Anchor 4: Word Meaning & Choice

Read the sentence from the PRO article.

The U.S. government does not have the right to force anybody to help it against their will.

What does the phrase "against their will" mean in the sentence above?

A

against their opinion

B

against their wishes

C

against their rules

D

against their perspective

2
Anchor 4: Word Meaning & Choice

Read the sentence from the CON article.

That decision is hard to defend when extremist groups are attacking America and its friends.

Which answer choice would CHANGE the meaning of the sentence if it replaced the word "extremist"?

A

courageous

B

terrorist

C

radical

D

fanatic

3
Anchor 8: Arguments & Claims

What does the CON author mean when he writes that Apple's Tim Cook should "take a history lesson"?

A

Tim Cook must not have learned history in school, and he should learn now.

B

Tim Cook needs to learn more about what happened during World War II.

C

Tim Cook needs to understand that global terrorism remains a huge threat to America's security.

D

Tim Cook needs to understand how CEOs in the past supported the government in emergencies.

4
Anchor 8: Arguments & Claims

Read the PRO section "U.S. Government Can't Force Apple To Help."

Why does the PRO author mention the Fourth Amendment?

A

to show that the government agrees with Apple's decision

B

to show that most people believe that privacy laws are important

C

to show that Apple has the right to make money by selling phones

D

to show that the right to privacy is protected by law

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