Apple CEO Timothy Cook testifies before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee's Investigations Subcommittee about the company's offshore profit shifting and tax avoidance in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill May 21, 2013 in Washington, D.C.
Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images
By Alex Fitzpatrick
December 21, 2015

In an interview broadcast Sunday, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that Americans shouldn’t have to choose between privacy and national security. “We’re America,” Cook said. “We should have both.”

Cook’s comments were recorded before the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California. But interviewer Charlie Rose said Cook hadn’t changed his stance in the wake of those incidents. That’s despite calls from politicians and security officials for technology companies like Apple to work more closely with the government in fighting terrorism.

One idea that’s been floated: Opening so-called “back doors” making it easier for the government to access data that’s protected by encryption. But the Apple CEO reiterated his belief that such a move would also make it easier for hackers to get people’s personal information, like their financial data and private messages.

“If the government lays a proper warrant on us today, then we will give the specific information that is requested, because we have to by law,” said Cook. “In the case of encrypted information, we don’t have it to give,” he added, meaning that once data is encrypted, even Apple can’t access it.

Rose also pressed Cook on criticism over his company’s controversial tax strategies. Apple, the world’s biggest corporation by market capitalization, holds more than $100 billion overseas. But American companies only pay taxes on foreign income when it’s brought back into the country. Apple, among other big companies, has been accused of parking foreign income in low-tax countries like Ireland to lessen its tax bill. Cook himself has been dragged before Congress to defend his company’s tax practices.

“I’d love to bring it home,” said Cook about Apple’s foreign-earned income. But he argued that the taxes Apple would have to pay on that money are too high. “It would cost me 40% to bring it home, and I don’t think that’s a reasonable thing to do,” said Cook. “This is a tax code, Charlie, that was made for the industrial age, not the digital age. It’s backwards. It’s awful for America. It should have been fixed many years ago. It’s past time to get it done.”

Cook then directly addressed accusations that Apple is effectively dodging its tax bill on foreign-earned income. “That is total political crap,” said Cook. “There’s no truth behind it. Apple pays every tax dollar we owe.”

 

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