Apple's Sleazy Secret Police Lose Their LeaderS

Leave no fingerprints. That's the way corporate security is supposed to work. But John Theriault left big, messy ones when his Apple security agents penetrated the home of an innocent San Francisco man. Now Theriault is out of a job, and his creepy security department will probably be a lot more careful—about getting caught.

Theriault has parted ways with Apple in the wake of a scandalous San Francisco home search, 9 to 5 Mac reports. He'd been Apple's vice president of global security since 2007, after running Pfizer's crackdown on fake Viagra and after 26 years in the FBI. He apparently oversaw Apple's "Worldwide Loyalty Team," an internal secret police team known for its network of informers and ruthless, systematic pursuit of leakers.

But it was in an external operation where Theriault's crew really ran off the rails. They were exposed, via some dogged reporting by SF Weekly, for an incredibly sordid home search this past July in pursuit of an iPhone prototype that had been lost in a bar. Accompanied by three or four plainclothes San Francisco police officers, two Apple security officers searched 22-year-old Sergio Calderón's house in Bernal Heights. The officers identified themselves as police; the Apple guys did not identify themselves at all, leaving the impression they were law enforcement officers like the others. Calderón let the Apple officers in, thinking they were cops, and knowing he had no iPhone prototype. His thanks for this openness was to have his family threatened with deportation:

"One of the officers is like, 'Is everyone in this house an American citizen?' They said we were all going to get into trouble," Calderón said.

The search was never supposed to make the papers; the actual cops involved somehow kept it out of official records, to the extent that police spokesmen, when first asked about the incident, said it appeared to be a troubling case of police impersonation "that's going to need to be investigated now." There is indeed an investigation, albeit not one as straightforward as a case of six fake cops.

Apple needn't have gotten its hands dirty, it could have made the police do its dirty work. That's how it worked with the raid on the home of Jason Chen, former editor of our sister publication Gizmodo. After Gizmodo paid for and published video of an iPhone 4 prototype that had been left in a bar, San Mateo Sheriff's deputies conducted an illegal raid of Chen's home. When San Mateo's district attorney later withdrew the warrant under which the raid had been conducted and instructed Chen get all his stuff back, Apple didn't have to deal with any blow back because it was not directly involved in the search, it simply oversaw the task force that conducted the raid.

That's how it's supposed to work. If your agents do end up menacing civilians, for God's sake keep it quiet. Theriault didn't keep things quiet, at all. And we all know how Apple feels about unplanned publicity.

[Photo of Theriault via LinkedIn, photo of Apple store via Getty Images]