Encryption and Terrorism: More Lies

As the previous post noted, leaders are agitating for laws that would require back doors into encryption software. It’s a comforting idea. Terrorists have “gone dark,” so police need back doors into encrypted communications.

But the BS doesn’t stop there. This new call for expanded surveillance floats on a raft that’s inflated with hot air.

Consider what they’re asking:

Maintain Data Security? Leaders want us to believe that encryption can protect our data even if police have back doors. That seems ludicrous. We’re supposed to believe that no one else will penetrate those back doors — criminal hackers, for example?

A Totally Lame Cost/Benefit Ratio? Our leaders want us to believe that the terrorism threat is major and immediate. The risk is so extreme that it requires us to accept weakened protection for all our data and messages (including health information, financial and ATM information, account passwords, etc.). The trade-off? With a greatly expanded monitoring program, Big Brother might penetrate a few terrorist organizations and stop a few attacks. But that’s very unlikely. We need to ask:  Does Big Bro’s approach provide a reasonable return when you compare the costs with the benefits? (Governments have spent trillions on mass surveillance but the odds of an individual dying in a terror attack are close to non-existent — around one in twenty million.)

Equality and Fairness? Of course, our leaders’ privacy is another matter. You can wager on one thing:  Those who want back doors into encryption software will find ways to exclude themselves. They’ll want to continue enjoying the best protections for their data and privacy because “that’s a national security matter.” And they’d greatly resent the implication that this represents a double standard. Leaders should ask themselves the question they like to ask privacy advocates:  “If you haven’t done anything wrong, what are you trying to hide?”

Extremists Have “Gone Dark?” Leaders are telling us that terror networks have gone dark. This suggest that terrorist networks were penetrated until just recently, that they were on the radar before the 2015 Paris attacks. If that’s true, why didn’t police do their job and just bust the Paris terrorists or track them in other ways to head off the attacks?

Encryption is a New Issue? It’s not. But leaders are asking us to believe that encryption is the hot new technology that allows terrorists to hide. That’s not the case. Extremist organizations have always relied on secrecy to conceal their planning and attack preparations. It’s an essential part of their modus operandi.

Communication Secrecy? Leaders want us to believe that terrorists’ use of encryption apps is the issue. It isn’t. The larger issue is communication secrecy. And that, very likely, is a bridge too far for intelligence-gathering efforts that rely heavily or solely on intercepts from electronic communications.

Naturally, governments and warriors do what they’ve always done:  They take great pains to maintain operational security. And that mostly involves communication secrecy. (Interestingly, it appears that our government spies have engineered back doors into many, most or all commercial encryption schemes. At the same time, the record indicates that our government surveillance experts have rarely penetrated terrorist networks.)

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