Stephen Colbert talks iPhone encryption with U.S. Attorney General

Last night on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Attorney General Loretta Lynch spoke on a number of law enforcement-related topics, including the ongoing case between the FBI and Apple related to the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters. Lynch refuted Apple's position that the FBI is asking for a back door into the iPhone, saying that they are "only" asking Apple to help disable the data erasure function that erases data after 10 failed password attempts.

You can watch the full interview with Lynch below. The section about Apple starts around three minutes in.

Of course, what Lynch ignores is that this isn't so simple. The feature in question is tied into the operating system, and removing it would require Apple to write and install a new version of iOS without the feature onto the phone at the center of the case. One of Apple's current points in its opposition to the federal court order is that the government cannot compel them to write new code.

Joseph Keller

Joseph Keller is the former Editor in Chief of iMore. An Apple user for almost 20 years, he spends his time learning the ins and outs of iOS and macOS, always finding ways of getting the most out of his iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac.

  • Just thought of a "solution" for this purpose, "one time use" version of iOS. It can't be installed on a phone without first wiping the phone. ;)
  • "Jack-booted thugs". Yep. That's exactly how I see the government right now. A bunch of thugs wanting to get into every piece of our lives. After all, this is the same government where the NSA has employed AT&T to have several unmarked rooms in key AT&T Internet backbone facilities where they siphon off Terabytes of data every second as it passes through AT&T owned fiber lines. Do I trust this government to do right by the American People? Nope. Not as far as I can throw them.
  • You're clearly an uneducated *****. This is about saving lives. Unbreakable encryption is going to lead to innocent people losing their lives in the future, as terrorists take advantage of being able to plan attacks in COMPLETE secrecy, without governments having any advance warning. Do you have any idea of the reality of the world in which we all live in? It doesn't seem so. There are many out there wanting to hurt and kill as many Americans as is possible (not to mention people in other countries, but this issue pertains specifically to the U.S., due to this particular case). The need to protect and save human lives trumps your need to keep ANYTHING you may have on your phone private. Indeed, if you have something on your phone that you don't want anyone else to see, then maybe you shouldn't have it on your phone. What part of any of this don't you get?! Posted via the iMore App for Android
  • Saving lives, yes, I agree with that. But at what cost? What cost to our freedoms? Our privacy? Where does it end? The ends DON'T justify the means! "We need to pass broad and sweeping decisions in an effort to fight terrorism." Gee, that sounds a lot like something Hitler said back when Hitler was in power in Germany. Do we really want to stoop to the level of Hitler? No. Those who do not learn from history is doomed to repeat it. Yes, I went there because that's where we're heading. We're heading right down the same road that Germany went down a little over half a century ago. Right into the world of Fascism with Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini. Again, those who do not learn from history is doomed to repeat it. I see it because I see the world with my eyes wide open. I have neither Republican nor Democrat glasses on. I am a Moderate, capable of seeing the road that we're going down and it scares the living crap out of me. God help us, God help us all.
  • Guess what? They already have access to encryption software now. Why don't you pull out the think of the children straw man while your at it. Sent from the iMore App
  • I noticed you used the word "trumps"......
  • Apple designs the phone, the phone is assembled in Asia and you are a US citizen that is therefore "under protection" of the NSA, FBI, etc....... all those premises are true so I'll give you another one you even mentioned in your comment a couple of times: it is MY phone.
    So yes, I support that the US government (and any country's government for that matter) have certain access to key data to fight terrorism... but you cannot attack terrorists by doing terrorism yourself: What if it were the other way around? If terrorists could decrypt your phone and steal your personal data or highly sensitive and important information? You would be hammering Apple right? because they were dumb enough to have an insecure OS released. This should actually be a good thing that we can be confident our privacy is covered by the devices we use.
    I have a question for you concerning your last paragraph: you really think terrorists or anyone that has something to hide will be using their phones to store anything if a tool to decrypt is released? Yes, it could be a deterrent to avoid the usage of that technology, but those guys will use whatever tools and means they have to accomplish their evil goals.
    I believe your post is more rude and insulting than explanatory given the language you used, but then again, you used "trumps"....
  • I really don't think you should call anybody uneducated when you think encryption should be breakable.
  • The Paris attacks were planned on unencrypted devices. No one saw it coming, or at least stopped it. Yes France isn't the NSA, but as France is "friendly" don't you think the NSA would have warned France? France has a good intelligence agency itself, they could've figured it out themselves as it was unencrypted data. It's already known how to encrypt, very well. So if Apple or any company is forced to allow this, they won't sell more phones overseas as another company will do encryption. This will hurt US businesses overseas. You're looking at it one sided, as "terrorism". Let's look at the other side. China is opressive, and they lock people up for saying anti-Government things. If the FBI gets this, China will too (if you have kids, don't tell me you don't get the "You got so-and-so a gameboy I want one too!"). Then it will be used for evil in China, as being able to say what they want/have other opinions is a right that this would infringe upon.
  • Hey lemmings and Kool Aid drinkers -- I have breaking news for you. For the majority of the life of the Iphone, APPLE ROUTINELY COOPERATED and worked with law enforcement. So why the change??? The govt has the right to access personal property with a warrant since THE DAWN OF THE CONSTITUTION! Do you really think Apple sells a bazillion Iphones in China with no means for the Chinese government to access the phones??? Perhaps a trojan app??? Come on! If the price to live in America is to grant access to my smart phone with PROBABLE CAUSE, I can live with that. I challenge any of you to find a country in the world that is a better TOP TO BOTTOM deal than the USA. Not a "cafeteria country" where one picks a favorite program or policy from each country. But a total top to bottom deal.
  • Oh my dear friend. have you heard of Canada?
  • Encourage all companies to improve security. Please join me in signing the petition at
  • She really "said" remarkably little.
  • Obviously one of Obama's minions.
  • Another technologically uneducated government stooge.