Gates tells Financial Times:
"Nobody’s talking about a backdoor... This is a specific case where the government is asking for access to information. They’re not asking for some general thing, they are asking for a particular case."
Anyhow, he’s wrong in thinking this is an isolated incident without further repercussions. News just broke out that more unlock requests of the sort have been made, confirming the information on Apple’s FAQ site regarding the situation.
He then further elaborated on his statement in a subsequent interview with Bloomberg:
"I do believe that with the right safeguards, there are cases where the government, on our behalf - like stopping terrorism, which could get worse in the future - that that is valuable."
I feel like he thinks that there’s a possibility for these “safeguards” to somehow achieve a level of infallibility in which the master keys of heavily encrypted data, along with the data itself, are handled appropriately over an indefinite period of time. As you might conclude, the chances of that happening are simply way too low - and the stakes way too high - to find out.
The reality is there is no middle ground on this. There is no spectrum. It’s a line of dominos - fulfil just one seemingly small request, and every interested party will dogpile on Apple, maybe even Facebook and Google (probably more willing to comply than Apple), to do the same.