Apple’s refusal to cooperate harms FBI’s counterterrorism efforts

The FBI’s recent announcement that it found third-party help in decoding San Bernardino, Calif., terrorist Syed Farook’s iPhone appears to let Apple off the hook legally.

However, the FBI’s decision to drop its lawsuit against Apple does not in any way justify company CEO Tim Cook’s refusal to help in an age when America and it global allies are coming under increasing attack from Islamist terrorists.

Even though this particular case has been dropped, legal scholars say the issues it revealed are unlikely to go away as quickly. Similar cases are sure to arise as federal security agencies lock horns with Silicon Valley companies in the near future.

Cook responded to the FBI’s request in December with an open letter labeling the request a “breach of privacy” with “chilling consequences” for free speech. His action, now seemingly vindicated, nevertheless has set back the efforts of the FBI to stanch terrorism by at least three months.

The Apple CEO should reconsider his use of the word “chilling” in the aftermath of the recent Brussels and Pakistan bombings by Islamic State terrorists.

The bombings in Brussels, the European Union’s headquarters city, put all of Europe on a red alert.

Authorities in EU countries believe Islamic terrorist cells have mushroomed across Europe — ready to commit more horrendous acts as they receive orders from their controllers in the Middle East and North Africa.

And U.S. intelligence experts have warned for years that there may be several thousand Islamic terrorists embedded in America awaiting similar orders.

Our political leaders have been slow to heed those warnings, but now, hopefully, they are starting to realize that what could be World War III has already started. It will not end until we eliminate the tens of thousands of fanatics eager to perpetrate atrocities based on hoary 14th century religious decrees.

As for Apple’s Cook, he might want to consider how our nation’s top CEOs responded to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s appeal for help in the wake of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

The “dastardly attack,” as FDR put it, devastated our Pacific fleet with the exception of two aircraft carriers that were out to sea. FDR and his military advisers realized that our military was woefully equipped with planes, tanks and ships left over from the 1920s and 1930s.

He created the Committee for Economic Development and picked Paul G. Hoffman, the CEO of Studebaker, to head a committee with 20 other of the nation’s top corporate leaders.

Their mission: to make America “the arsenal of democracy.” They accomplished that goal in short order by ending the manufacturing of civilian goods at the nation’s largest industrial plants and quickly converting those facilities to wartime production.

Ford, for instance, converted its sprawling vehicle factory at Willow Run to producing bombers, including some 24,000 B-24 Liberators.

Chrysler took over tank production, making more than 86,000 Sherman tanks. Willys Overland produced 363,000 Jeeps, most in Toledo, Ohio.

General Motors, as America’s largest manufacturer, outdid everyone. The Detroit-based goliath produced 854,000 trucks, 198,000 diesel engines, 206,000 aircraft engines, and 38,000 tanks, tank destroyers and armored vehicles, not to mention vast quantities of guns and ammunition.

And Hoffman’s Studebaker produced thousands of Weasels, the go-anywhere amphibious vehicle that allowed Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s troops to cross the jungle mire of otherwise impassable areas in New Guinea and the Philippines.

America’s corporation executives, who put patriotism ahead of profits, worked for $1 a year until the war ended

As we enter what well may be World War III, Apple’s Cook might want to take particular note of their sacrifice. His salary last year, by the way, was $10.28 million and his net worth was an estimated $785 million.

A native of El Paso, Texas, Whitt Flora is an independent journalist and former chief congressional correspondent for Aviation & Space Technology Magazine. Readers may write him at 319 Shagbark Road, Middle River, MD 21220.