Ashcroft: We Can’t Let U.S. Companies Provide a Sanctuary for Terrorists

During an interview with the FOX Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo, former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft weighed in on Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) refusal to allow the FBI access to the iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters.

“We cannot have an American company that provides a sanctuary or a secure area where terrorists can communicate and can plan and carry out plans to disrupt America and to destroy our freedom,” he said.

Ashcroft “hopes” there will be a way for Apple to provide the information while protecting the privacy of law abiding citizens. He added, “however, when there are terrorists at work, I don’t think we want to find a way to protect their communications. They have to be susceptible to law enforcement understanding.”

Earlier on Mornings with Maria, former Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio compared his fight against the NSA and alleged insider trading to Apple. He suggested that it was illegal for the government to put “pipes beneath the ground” to listen in on conversations.“Ashcroft was the attorney general at the time and the director of the FBI was an assistant attorney general at the time and they knew that our intelligence agencies were involved in illegal activities,” he said.

Ashcroft responded saying: “The idea that somehow the government can never get information to defend the national security because someone might sometime abuse him for information is absurd. Everything is susceptible to abuse,” he said.

According to Ashcroft, the government can legally gain information through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Courts or the authority of the president in Article 2 for obtaining information.

“The safeguards we developed before should be the ones we use again and we should do this -- and I think there will be a way to get this done here. You can’t have secure communications for terrorists,” he said.

Ashcroft also discussed the political fallout from the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

“Antonin Scalia was probably one of the greatest patriots that I ever got to know. He was committed to what the constitution was supposed to mean and it should not be abandoned simply because five judges somehow develop a majority on the Supreme Court. He knew that the constitution, when amended, should be amended the way the constitution says.”