Tim Cook, Elon Musk, and a bunch of billionaires and politicians gather on an island to discuss Trump and encryption

There are definitely some strange bedfellows here, brought together to discuss two topics near and dear to everyone’s heart: Donald Trump and encryption.

Here’s a partial list of attendees:

Apple CEO Tim Cook, Google co-founder Larry Page, Napster creator and Facebook investor Sean Parker, and Tesla Motors and SpaceX honcho Elon Musk all attended. So did Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), political guru Karl Rove, House Speaker Paul Ryan, GOP Sens. Tom Cotton (Ark.), Cory Gardner (Colo.), Tim Scott (S.C.), Rob Portman (Ohio) and Ben Sasse (Neb.), who recently made news by saying he “cannot support Donald Trump.”

Along with Ryan, the House was represented by Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton (Mich.), Rep. Kevin Brady (Texas) and almost-Speaker Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), sources said, along with leadership figure Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.), Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (Texas) and Diane Black (Tenn.).

Philip Anschutz, the billionaire GOP donor whose company owns a stake in Sea Island, was also there, along with Democratic Rep. John Delaney, who represents Maryland. Arthur Sulzberger, the publisher of The New York Times, was there, too, a Times spokeswoman confirmed.

Amazing list. Tim Cook and Karl Rove, in the same room and, at least for a brief shining moment, on the same side of an issue.

At one point, Cotton and Apple’s Cook fiercely debated cell phone encryption, a source familiar with the exchange told HuffPost. “Cotton was pretty harsh on Cook,” the source said, and “everyone was a little uncomfortable about how hostile Cotton was.”

I suspect only one of the two truly understood the ramifications of this battle.



  • StruckPaper

    Surprising that the NY Times would be in a meeting attended mostly by Republicans.

    • Mo

      Not at all surprising.

  • oldwhig

    “I suspect only one of the two truly understood the ramifications of this battle.”

    I imagine you meant Cook, but don’t underestimate Sen. Cotton.

    Cotton 1) has two Harvard degrees; 2) practiced at the same well-regarded law firm–Gibson Dunn–that is now representing Apple in the encryption case; 3) left that elite career to enlist in the Army and serve in Iraq and Afghanistan, for which service he earned a number of honors including a Bronze Star.

    Maybe–maybe–Cook, an operations guy, has been schooled to know more about encryption, but Cotton undoubtedly knows more about the law, national security, and the enemies we are fighting. I’m sure he gets “the ramifications” even if he ultimately disagrees with Apple.

    • what bootlicking nonsense. being a warmonger doesnt make a man any more qualified to understand national security. get it thru your head — there is nothing new, special, or ultra-dangerous about our enemies in the desert. the USSR, Germany, and Japan were far more dangerous enemies, empowered by the fact that they were actual sovereign states. angry jihadists just arent that big of deal, no matter what your political heroes tell you on talk radio.

      • oldwhig

        Your intemperate reply is inaccurate and unpersuasive, but does manage to cram three major errors and fallacies into one very brief paragraph: 1) ad hominem attacks (“bootlicking” “warmonger”) 2) straw man (USSR/Germany); and 3) baseless accusations (that “talk radio” bit).

        In fact:

        1. Volunteering to serve in the Army after 9/11 does not make one a “warmonger.” Nor does describing Cotton’s decision make me a “bootlicker.”

        2. I never claimed that “our enemies in the desert” were “more dangerous” than USSR, Germany, or Japan; I’m not sure why you think I need to get the contrary notion “thru” my head.

        3. I do assert, though, that having served in Iraq and Afghanistan gives Cotton more information about the threats these particular enemies do pose than most other people have, and that this information is not only relevant, but important to properly balancing the interests in this case.

        4. Even if field experience did not suffice, his service on the Select Committee on Intelligence gives him plenty of information to which you and I are not privy, but which also would be useful in weighing the merits of the dispute.

        5. You suggest that I’m duped by 1) my “political heroes” on 2) “talk radio.” You offer no evidence that this is the case, so you shouldn’t be surprised to read that I don’t listen to talk radio and that Cotton is not a “political hero” of mine.

        I simply believe Cotton’s a smart guy, as I said in my original post, and that he should not be underestimated.

        I’m very surprised to get such a extreme response from such a modest suggestion. Before you dismiss others’ arguments as “talk radio” fare, you really ought to make sure you’re setting–and adhering to–a higher standard than that yourself.

        1. Finally, you may be surprised to know that I lean toward Apple’s side in this debate.

        It seem to me that Apple has made an abstract case that acceding to the government’s request could cause risks to customers’ information security, but the case is not yet concrete or compelling enough for non-experts to grasp.

        Let’s hope they and their amici curiae do so.

        • blah blah blah. the whole national security thing is a silly smokescreen to get gullible bootlickers to hand over more power to the government. there’s nothing about jiadists in the desert half a world away that warrants weakening encryption.

          suggesting an army warmonger gets encryption more than cook is absurd.

          and there was no strawman — I didn’t suggest USSR/Germany/Japan was an argument of yours. it’s my argument — they were a serious threat to national security because they had the means to destroy or inflict great harm. terrorists don’t. even 9/11 was a puny attack with extremely limited casualties. the subsequent loss of civil rights at the hands of warmongers and bootlickers was far worse.

          • oldwhig

            I’m glad to see you spiced up your “bootlickers” and “warmongers” with some blah, blah, blahs. That really elevates the discussion.

            A couple points:

            1. I never “suggested” Cotton knew encryption better than Cook. I said quite the opposite.

            2. I’ve already conceded that USSR/Germany/Japan were bigger threats; but you seem to wave away about 3,000 9/11 casualties as no big deal. In fact, the 9/11 terrorists you dismiss caused more casualties on American soil. So this is misguided.

            3. Under the law this boils down to a balancing test. Who’s parade of horribles–Apple’s or the FBI’s–is more…horrible?

            As I said in my last post, Apple has made an abstract argument that it needs to make more concrete and compelling.

            You’re doing the same thing. The only “horribles” you present are vague things like “weakened encryption” and “civil rights” in the abstract. That’s weak tea.

            The FBI believes that two mass murderers might have been in contact with other mass murders. They think they’re saving lives. They think they’re preventing another 9/11, which they think was a pretty big deal.

            “weak encryption” vs. 3,000 lives. Or more.

            If a balance must be struck here, a judge would hesitate before ruling for Apple, on the off chance that they’ll turn on the news and realize that something horrible has happened that they could have prevented.

            So instead of calling everyone who entertains a skeptical view a “bootlicker” or a “warmonger” or dismissing them with a “blah blah blah” or accusing them of giving the government too much power (I wonder if you have the same fears when it comes to net neutrality, financial regulation, or basically any other issue), you need to help Apple make a better argument.

            Explain–with concrete and compelling examples–why “weaker encryption” really makes customers less safe and less secure, and why that’s better than going after the bad guys.

            Because Apple hasn’t done it yet.

  • Mo

    What a crazy collection of unlikely allies. “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” indeed.

  • Leish

    It pains me that there are so few women at this event. As a father of 2 young women I notice this stuff all the time. A simple idea would be for the men, upon receiving an invite, to immediately think of what woman they should also invite. Even if they were to do so as a thought exercise … it might help them slowly change their perspective. It should go without saying that they could do a similar thought exercise for minorities.

  • jsmith

    I’m on Apple’s side on this, but I agree with oldwhig–Senator Cotton is incredibly impressive. There are, in fact, legitimate arguments on the other side (not necessarily with respect to the San Bernadino phone, but with respect to encryption).

    • oldwhig

      Thank you. I think Federighi’s op-ed in the Washington Post got closer, but Apple still needs to provide some concrete worst-case scenarios if it is to win the case.