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Former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden earlier this week said he stands by Apple’s efforts to try to make the FBI describe how exactly it was able to unlock San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone 5c.

Snowden explained his perspective during a debate in New York against CNN television show host Fareed Zakaria earlier this week. Snowden appeared virtually via Google Hangouts at the debate, which was organized by New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service and the Century Foundation, a nonprofit think tank.

in response to a question from an audience member, here’s what Snowden said:

One of the points that was raised by Mr. Zakaria earlier was that he said, well, you know, Apple hasn’t really made any response, they haven’t made any stink, in response to this. Now, in fact, they have. They’ve challenged the FBI, I believe in court, where they’ve tried to get them to compel, or it may have simply been through internal processes before they get to court, to get the FBI to disclose the vulnerability that was used to get into this phone, so that they could close it, so that they could protect the millions of Americans who are using these kind of devices. And I think that is proper. When the FBI finds a case that is so exceptional that they have to break the security of the device to get in it, it merits these kinds of exceptional circumstances, they should try to do that. At the same time, they should make sure they close the door behind them, so that the rest of us, whether we work at UNICEF or whether we work at Starbucks, are safe and don’t face the same threats tomorrow.

On March 29, the Los Angeles Times reported that Apple lawyers were “researching legal tactics to compel the government to turn over the specifics” of the technique it used to unlock the San Bernardino phone. One day later, Reuters backed up that assertion by reporting that Apple could resort to legal discovery in order to make the government disclose the information in the related New York case.


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In addition to weighing in on that subject during this week’s debate, Snowden also pushed back against the notion that the having the FBI share that information with Apple would be solely in Apple’s interests.

“They’re not doing it to help the company, they’re doing it to help the country, they’re doing it to help everyone in America who uses those products, who uses those services,” Snowden said.

If anything, he said, doing so would be effectively investing in the U.S. government’s “cybersecurity improvement plan.”

Generally speaking, though, Snowden argued against the notion that “the government should have lawful access to any encrypted message or device.”

Watch the entire debate on YouTube here.

For a full overview of the Apple-FBI controversy, check out our timeline.

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