Tim Cook: Unlocking terrorist's iPhone would be 'bad for America' (updated)

Apple CEO makes case on ABC World News Tonight.

ABC World News Tonight

Apple has been in an ongoing legal fight with the government regarding the iPhone of terrorist, Syed Rizwan Farook. While the United States has filed motions compelling the company to help it circumvent the passcode of the device, the company and CEO Tim Cook have publicly refused via an open letter stating that doing so would jeopardize the safety and privacy of its customers.

Now Cook is taking his case to a broader audience this evening by appearing on ABC World News Tonight with anchor David Muir. Clips of the show have surfaced before the 6:30pm ET air time and Cook remains steadfast in his insistence that helping the FBI unlock the iPhone 5c would set a chilling precedent.

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"The protection of people's data is incredibly important. So the trade off here is, we know that doing this could expose people to incredible vulnerabilities. This is not something we would create. This would be bad for America," Cook tells Muir during the interview.

When Muir asks Cook if he had any concerns that he might prevent a terrorist attack by unlock that phone. Cook replied, "some things are hard and some things are right and some things are both. This is one of those things."

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Cook also said that he wished there had been more of a dialog with the administration and Justice Department before the filing to compel the company to help unlock the phone. "I don't think something so important to the country should be handled this way," Cook added.

Apple's deadline to reply to the government's motions to help the FBI unlock the iPhone is February 26.

Update: In the full interview (available below), Cook told Muir that what the FBI wants is "what we view as sort of the software equivalent of cancer," because it could compromise the security of hundreds of millions of other users.

Cook also cautioned that if Apple complies with the request, both it and other companies could be compelled to do more. "If a court can ask us to write this piece of software, think about what else they could ask us to write. Maybe it's an operating system for surveillance. Maybe it's the ability for law enforcement to turn on the camera. I don't know where this stops," the Apple CEO said.

During the interview Cook said multiple times that this is about civil liberties, safety and privacy. Noting that smartphones have more personal information about users than any other device. He named off items in stored on the devices including personal messages, banking information and the location of people's children and other family members.

The CEO will be meeting with President Obama about the matter and was optimistic that everything would work out, but he noted that the company is in it for the duration. When asked if the company was prepared to go to the Supreme Court to fight the order he answered, "we are prepared to go all the way. I think it's that important for America,"